Sher­iff: Dive boat fire vic­tims killed by smoke, not flames

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD -

SANTA BAR­BARA, Calif. — Dozens of peo­ple trapped on a scuba div­ing boat that caught fire off the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia coast ap­pear to have died from smoke in­hala­tion, not burns, au­thor­i­ties said Fri­day.

“The indi­ca­tors are from the pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion of the bod­ies that the vic­tims died prior to be­ing burned,” Santa Bar­bara County Sher­iff Bill Brown said. “The burn dam­age to the vic­tims was post-mortem.”

More than half the 34 peo­ple killed as they slept in bunks be­low deck early Mon­day have been pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied through DNA, and their fam­ily mem­bers around the world are be­ing no­ti­fied, Brown told re­porters.

Divers are search­ing for the one body that still has not been found.

Five crew mem­bers jumped over­board af­ter try­ing to res­cue the 33 scuba divers and one crew mem­ber whose es­cape routes were blocked by fire, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties and the boat’s owner said. The crew, in­clud­ing the cap­tain, said they were driven back by flames, smoke and heat.

Mul­ti­ple in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the dis­as­ter are fo­cused on de­ter­min­ing what hap­pened and have not be­come a crim­i­nal probe, though Brown said charges are pos­si­ble.

Gath­er­ing DNA to iden­tify re­mains burned be­yond recog­ni­tion has taken an ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­fort.

The re­mains of 18 peo­ple have been pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied, and the sher­iff re­leased the names of nine whose fam­i­lies have been no­ti­fied.

A sal­vage crew work­ing with the Coast Guard was try­ing to re­cover the ship that sank in 60 feet of wa­ter.


An Ital­ian squadron trails smoke that shows why it is known as the Frecce Tri­col­ori dur­ing a per­for­mance at the Air­power 2019 air­show Fri­day in Zeltweg, Austria.

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