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