(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) — Search crews have recovered the bodies of 33 people who died when a chartered dive-boat caught and sank off the coast of Santa Barbara, officials said on Wednesday.
One passenger believed to have perished in the Labor Day disaster remains missing, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department said.
The sheriff’s department said in a statement that 13 bodies were recovered Tuesday, a day after 20 bodies were pulled from the Pacific Ocean floor.
“They have not yet been identified by the coroner, but our search shows that we have one remains outstanding,” the statement reads. “The recovery continues for one outstanding human remains.”
As the search-and-recovery mission continued near the Channel Islands, about a mile off the coast of Santa Barbara, the National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into what caused the calamity.
“I am 100 percent confident that our investigators will determine the cause of this fire, why it occurred, how it occurred and what is needed to prevent it from happening again, absolutely,” Jennifer Homendy, a member of the NTSB, said at a news conference Tuesday evening.
The recovery of the additional bodies came a day after the U.S. Coast Guard announced that the search-and-rescue mission has been suspended and has now become a search-and-recovery effort.
There were 39 people on board the 75-foot ship named the Conception when a fire erupted about 3:30 a.m. local time on Monday, officials said. Five crew members, including the captain, jumped overboard and were rescued by a nearby good Samaritan vessel, officials said.
The 34 people killed in the disaster were apparently asleep in the lower deck of the three-deck boat, officials said. When the fire broke out, flames apparently block the stairway leading to the upper decks and an escape hatch, trapping the victims, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said on Tuesday.
The captain of the boat, identified by colleagues as Jerry Boylan, and four crew members were on the top deck when the fire started and survived by jumping overboard, Brown said.
The boat had been chartered by Truth Aquatics in Santa Barbara and was on the last day of a three-day diving adventure trip off the Channel Islands when disaster struck, Brown said.
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