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Final victim of California boat fire is recovered by divers

APphoto_Boat Fire California
Flowers are placed along a fence at Santa Barbara Harbor in memory of the California boat fire victims.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Divers on Wednesday recovered the final victim of the California boat fire that killed 34 people on Labor Day.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department announced the discovery, saying DNA testing would determine the identity of the body.

Authorities have been planning to raise the boat from the Santa Barbara Channel for days, but those efforts have been repeatedly put off due to bad weather. Officials now expect the salvage process to begin Thursday or Friday.

A commercial diving boat caught fire near the shoreline of Santa Cruz Island, Calif., early Monday. Many aboard the boat were believed to be sleeping below deck when the fire broke out in the pre-dawn hours.
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Investigators have still not determined the cause of the worst maritime disaster in modern California history and believe being able to examine the boat could help locate an ignition source and answer why none of the victims were able to escape.

The fire broke out during a Labor Day weekend diving expedition, trapping the victims who were sleeping below deck. Five crew members who were above deck at the time were able to escape and said the fire was too intense to get anyone else out.

Of the 34 victims, authorities are still trying to determine the identifies of seven. Authorities believe all died of smoke inhalation.

Federal investigators from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Coast Guard have spent the last two days searching the Santa Barbara Harbor office of the Conception operator, Truth Aquatics. The FBI on Tuesday also asked the public for any information — including videos and photos — of the Conception.

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Investigators also continued to examine and remove items from Truth Aquatics’ boat the Vision, a vessel similar to the Conception. FBI evidence experts carefully packaged up items in cardboard boxes while an ATF team scoured the boat’s systems.


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