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NTSB begins interviewing Conception dive boat crew members

Posted at 8:12 AM, Sep 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-04 22:11:28-04

UPDATE (3:45 p.m.) - The National Transportation Safety Board has begun interviewing the surviving crew members of the Conception dive boat.

Thirty-four people were killed when the boat caught fire and sank off Santa Cruz Island early Monday morning. The bodies of all but one of the victims have been recovered.

Those interviewed on Wednesday include the vessel owner/operator, second galley, second captain, deck hand, and the vessel's captain. Jennifer Homendy with the NTSB described the interviews as lengthy, multi-hour, detailed interviews that are still continuing as of Wednesday afternoon. She said everyone involved is being cooperative.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Homendy said she also toured another boat that is owned by Truth Aquatics. The Vision is similar to the Conception, and investigators wanted to see its layout.

Other information that the NTSB is requesting for its investigation include 911 calls, Coast Guard calls, operation manuals, policies and procedures, inspection history, drawings of the vessel, and toxicology samples.

The NTSB says all of the surviving crews members have been tested for drugs and investigators are awaiting those results. Four of the five were also tested for alcohol and those results were found to be negative. Homendy says the fifth crew member was unable to be tested because that patient was being transported to the hospital at the time.

Homendy says investigators are also documenting the wreckage of the boat, which is submerged in 60-65 feet of water. They are reportedly using sonar to map the wreckage before it is removed from the ocean floor.

NTSB representatives have also been meeting with the family members of the victims.

A preliminary report on the boat fire is expected in about 10 days.

UPDATE (2:35 p.m.) - The Family Assistance Center, which was set up following the deadly Conception dive boat fire, will be closing at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

A 24/7 phone number will remain available for family and friends of the victims who are seeking support. That number is (805) 884-1604.

(8:12 a.m.) - U.S. Coast Guard officials announced Wednesday morning they have recovered all but one of the 34 bodies crews have been searching for following Monday's deadly boat fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island.

Coast Guard Lt. Zach Farrell tells the Associated Press that 13 bodies were recovered Tuesday.

Farrell spoke to the AP on behalf of an inter-agency joint information center representing local, county, state and federal officials.

Dive teams from Santa Barbara County, Los Angeles County and the FBI are continuing to look for the one person still missing. Sonar mapping is being used in this effort, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said 20 bodies had been recovered and taken to the coroner's office. Dive teams spent Tuesday searching for the 14 missing people remaining.

The Conception dive boat caught fire before dawn on Monday. Authorities previously said 34 people aboard who were sleeping below decks were presumed dead and that five crew members including the captain escaped.

The sheriff's office says, because of the fire, DNA analysis is being used to positively identify the victims.

The NTSB will hold a press conference briefing the media and the public Wednesday afternoon on the latest on its investigation into what happened aboard the Conception.