California boat fire: Truth Aquatics suspends all operations amid investigation
The operator of the Conception dive boat, which burned in a Labor Day fire that killed 34 people, announced Tuesday it was suspending all operations as the investigation into the deadly blaze continued.
The company has come under scrutiny since the fire, with the FBI and other agencies spending several days searching its Santa Barbara offices and at least one of its other boats. Despite the intense inspections, U.S. Coast Guard officials say there are no restrictions on Truth Aquatics operating its vessels.
“With the continued calls and request for tours, we want to announce that we are officially suspending all operations of our Truth Aquatic fleet for a to-be-determined amount of time,” Truth Aquatics said in an Instagram post. “Right now we feel it’s important [to] dedicate our entire efforts to make our boats models of new regulations that we will continue to work on with the NTSB and Coast Guard.”
The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report found that the entire crew was asleep before the blaze was discovered, and the Conception did not have a roaming night watchman, as required by the U.S. Coast Guard for vessel certification.
The NTSB investigation is continuing, and it’s possible investigators could return to inspect the salvaged vessel, a board spokesman said.
Those who died in the inferno were sleeping below deck and could not escape the flames. Crew members above deck were able to jump overboard to safety.
Federal investigators last week concluded their examination of the charred wreckage, but officials said Friday that the investigation into the origins and cause of the blaze was far from over.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives completed a painstaking examination of the burned-out Conception, which was hauled to a Ventura County dock from the ocean floor on Sept. 12.
Experts have worked to piece together the remains of the dive boat, and parts of the vessel were sent to high-tech laboratories. Authorities also have scoured the seabed for missing pieces.
But a month after the fire — the deadliest boat fire in modern California history — authorities still have not determined the cause of the blaze, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. Sources say, however, a forensic examination is likely to reveal the origin.
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