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Body of last missing victim in deadly California boat fire is found

The fire that engulfed the Conception on a Labor Day weekend trip killed 34 people.
Image: Conception
A member of the FBI walks near the dive boats Vision and Truth in Santa Barbara, Calif. on Sept. 6, 2019.Mark J. Terrill / AP

The body of the final victim missing since a diving boat fire killed 34 people off the California coast this month has been found, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

"Search and recovery efforts today were successful in locating the last missing victim," the sheriff’s office said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon.

The bodies of 33 other victims had previously been found since the Sept. 2 fire engulfed the 75-foot commercial vessel the Conception in the waters off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, which is west of Ventura.

The cause of the fire, which broke out at 3:30 a.m. as the passengers slept below deck, is under investigation. Five crew members, including the captain, were on the third deck and got off the boat and survived.

The Conception, operated by Truth Aquatics out of Santa Barbara, was on a Labor Day weekend diving excursion when the fire occurred.

DNA testing was being conducted to confirm the identities of seven victims, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday.

Coast Guard assistant commandant for prevention policy, Rear Admiral Richard Timme, announced Wednesday that he has convened a formal Marine Board of Investigation to look into the deadly blaze.

Search warrants were served this week at Truth Aquatics' offices and the company's two remaining boats, the Associated Press reported. They were described as routine in the ongoing probe to see if any crimes were committed.

The Coast Guard marine board investigation announced Wednesday is expected to take a year or longer to complete, but urgent safety actions could be implemented before then, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The four members of the marine board will look at all aspects of the incident, including "re-accident historical events, the regulatory compliance of the Conception, crewmember duties and qualifications, weather conditions and reporting, safety and firefighting equipment, and Coast Guard oversight," the Coast Guard said.

The fire is also being investigated by other agencies, including the National Transportation Safety Board. The Coast Guard, FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also supporting a Justice Department investigation, the Coast Guard said.