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Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators Wednesday began interviews looking into the fire that presumably killed 34 people aboard the boat Conception off Santa Barbara County Monday.

NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said:

“This is going to be a very lengthy, detailed and comprehensive investigation.” 

The boat caught fire early Monday morning and sank. It is currently in 60 to 65 feet of water and inverted.

Officials with the Santa Barbara County coroner’s bureau have not officially released the names of the dead.

Homendy said her investigators interviewed Conception’s owner/operator and members of the ship’s crew, who were the only survivors of the fire. Homendy described the interviews as “very cooperative.”

Crewmembers interviewed Wednesday included the vessel’s captain, 2nd captain, 2nd galley and a deck hand. Homendy said the contents of the interviews will not be released to the public except for certain facts deemed appropriate for released.

Officials plan to interview other witnesses and a fifth crewmember, owners of other vessels, members of the U.S. Coast Guard and other first responders.

Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office The National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the fire that engulfed the dive boat “Conception” and presumably claimed the lives of 34 people on board Monday, September 2, 2019. Many passengers were from Northern California and the Bay Area.

A preliminary report will be released in 10 days, Homendy said. The report will include facts about the fire but not a probable cause. That information will be available in 12 to 18 months.

Investigators also went to see the boat Vision, which is similar to Conception. Both boats are operated by Truth Aquatics, Homendy said. Vision is not a sister or replica of Conception but similar in design. Wednesday was the first full day the NTSB was at the scene of the fire.

Homendy also said she met with families of the victims for two hours Wednesday.

She said:

“The biggest thing I wanted to get across was how sorry we are for their loss.” 

“I can’t imagine what those families are going through right now. This was a horrific tragedy.”

Homendy said:

“Those families are why we are here.”

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