U.S. Coast Guard Convenes Highest Level of Investigation Into Dive Boat Disaster

Thirty four people died when a dive boat caught fire and sank off Santa Cruz Island on Labor Day

What to Know

  • The diving boat Conception caught fire during a Labor Day diving trip off the coast of Southern California.
  • Thirty-four people trapped below deck died, five crew members escaped.
  • A cause of the fire, which quickly engulfed the 75-foot boat, has not been determined.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday it was convening its highest level of investigation into the Labor Day disaster of a commercial dive boat that killed 34 people off the Southern California coast.

The Coast Guard's Marine Board of Investigation will begin looking into the tragedy involving the dive boat, Conception, said Rear Adm. Richard Timme, an assistant commandant for prevention policy, in a statement.

The Conception caught fire and sank in the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2019, off Santa Cruz Island in California. Five crew members managed to escape and were rescued.

The marine board will probe accident history, compliance issues, crew member duties and qualifications, weather conditions and reporting, safety and firefighting equipment, and Coast Guard oversight, the statement said. It will work to determine whether misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence or willful violation of the law contributed to the casualty, officials said.

The probe will run parallel with a criminal investigation being conducted by another Coast Guard team, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"The Coast Guard is deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred near Santa Cruz Island," said Capt. Jason Neubauer, chair of the Marine Board of Investigation. "Our hearts go out to the victims, as well as their families and friends. The Coast Guard will conduct a thorough and detailed investigation to determine potential causal factors associated with this tragedy."

The Coast Guard, meanwhile, was hoping to raise the burned wreckage of the Conception from about 60 feet of water as early as Thursday.

Officials had hoped to raise the boat on Friday, but had suspended the operation due to high winds and weather.

The news came as officials said they found the last missing victim, as officials work to confirm identities through DNA.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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