Dive boat raised to the surface and all fire victims identified, sheriff says

The final victims of the deadly dive boat fire have been identified, and the Conception has been raised from the ocean floor, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a news conference on Thursday.

The fire killed 34 people in the deadliest maritime tragedy in modern California history.

Thirty-three of the victims were identified through DNA analysis and the final victim was identified through fingerprints, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

“DNA identification is pending the arrival of a familial DNA sample from overseas,” Brown said.

The final victim was found Wednesday afternoon by a team of divers from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, supported by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The divers were searching a cove adjacent to Platt’s Harbor when they found the body, Brown said.

The last body was found in close proximity to where other victims were found, within about three-tenths of a mile from where the boat sank, Brown said. All of the victims died of smoke inhalation.

The Conception was raised to the surface on Thursday, Brown said, and authorities were preparing to lift it onto a barge, where it will be taken to an “undisclosed, secure location” for investigation.

“Upon completion of the salvage operation, local and state involvement in this incident will wind down,” Brown said. “The investigation into the cause of this disaster will continue for some time to come, and it will be led by our federal partners.”

This image from aerial video provided by KTLA-TV shows the burned hulk of the Conception diving boat being brought to the surface by the Curtin Maritime’s manned Derrick Barge Salta Verde and its salvage team off Santa Cruz Island on Thursday. KTLA-TV via AP

NTSB issues report

Also Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board issued its preliminary report on the tragedy, saying all six of the crew members aboard the boat were asleep when the fire broke out around 3 a.m. on Labor Day morning.

The boat was supposed to have a “roaming night watchman,” according to law enforcement sources cited by the Los Angeles Times.

The NTSB report released recounts the events as they occurred early on the morning of Monday, Sept. 2.

The first notice of the fire came when one of the crew members sleeping in the wheelhouse awoke after hearing a noise, according to the report.

“He saw a fire at the aft end of the sun deck, rising up from the salon compartment below,” the NTSB report says. “The crewmember alerted the crew behind the wheelhouse.”

The Santa Barbara-based Conception dive boat caught fire and sank early Monday near Santa Cruz Island, and 34 people are missing and feared dead. Santa Barbara County Fire Department

As the crew woke up, the captain of the boat radioed a distress call to the Coast Guard, the report says.

The crew tried multiple times to save the passengers, but were blocked by fire. The crew members then got into a dingy and escaped to a nearby boat, the Grape Escape.

The crew told authorities that “no mechanical or electrical issues were reported,” according to the report.

NTSB investigator Adam Tucker said at a Sept. 5 news conference that those smoke detectors weren’t required to be wired to the wheelhouse.

“Investigators plan to examine current regulations regarding vessels of this type, year of build, and operation; early-warning and smoke-detection and alarm systems; evacuation routes; training; and current company policies and procedures. Efforts continue to determine the source of the fire,” the report said.

The NTSB cautioned that the information in the preliminary report is “subject to change and may contain errors,” and will be either supplemented or corrected during the investigation.

A final report could take more than a year to compile.

A growing memorial to those who died aboard the dive boat Conception is seen early Friday morning, Sept. 6, 2019 at the harbor in Santa Barbara. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 people on the ship off Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast near Santa Barbara. Stefanie Dazio AP

Official list of victims

These are the names of all the victims:

  • Xiang Lin, 45, Fremont
  • Yuko Hatano, 39, San Jose
  • Adrian Dahood-Fritz, 40, Sacramento
  • Lisa Fiedler, 52, Mill Valley
  • Berenice Felipe, 16, Santa Cruz
  • Juha Pekka Ahopelto, 50, Sunnyvale
  • Kristina “Kristy” Finstad, 41, Santa Cruz
  • Fernisa Sison, 57, Stockton
  • Kaustubh Nirmal, 33, Stamford, Connecticut
  • Sanjeeri Deopujari, 31, Stamford, Connecticut
  • Sunil Sandhu, 45, Half Moon Bay
  • Kristian Takvam, 34, San Francisco
  • Raymond Scott Chan, 59, Los Altos
  • Justin Carroll Dignam, 58, Anaheim
  • Daniel Garcia, 46, Berkeley
  • Marybeth Guiney, 51, Santa Monica
  • Yulia Krashennaya, 40, of Berkeley
  • Alexandra Kurtz, 25, Santa Barbara
  • Caroline McLaughlin, 35, Oakland
  • Ted Strom, 62, Germantown, Tennessee
  • Wei Tan, 26, Goleta
  • Kendra Chan, 26, Oxnard
  • Angela Rose Quitasol, 28, Stockton
  • Evan Michel Quitasol, 37, Stockton
  • Nicole Storm Quitasol, 31, Imperial Beach
  • Michael Quitasol, 62, Stockton
  • Carol Diana Adamic, 60, Santa Cruz
  • Andrew Fritz, 40, Sacramento
  • Charles McIlvain, 44, Santa Monica
  • Steven Salika, 55, Santa Cruz
  • Tia Salika-Adamic, 17, Santa Cruz
  • Neal Gustav Baltz, 42, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Patricia Ann Beitzinger, 48, Chandler, Arizona
  • Vaidehi Campbell, 41, Felton
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