California boat fire victims died from smoke not burns
More than 30 people who were trapped in a California boat fire are thought to have died from smoke inhalation and not burns.
Officials announced on Wednesday they have recovered all but one of the 34 bodies that were onboard the Conception boat, which sank after a fire broke out just after 3am on Monday.
All passengers and one crew member who died on the three-day scuba diving excursion off the coast of Santa Barbara, were sleeping in a cramped bunkroom below the main deck.
The fire spread so quickly it blocked off both exits out of the lower deck.
Authorities say preliminary findings show the victims could have inhaled highly toxic smoke and died in their sleep before the fire took hold.
The indicators are from the preliminary examination of the bodies that the victims died prior to being burned, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.
His comments came as search divers continued to look for the final missing victim, while officials investigate the cause of the fire.
But the Coast Guard said safety concerns over the weather had halted divers efforts to salvage the boat on Friday.
Hundreds attended an emotional candlelit vigil at a Santa Barbara park on Friday evening, with officials and others offering mourners words of solace.
Diving instructor Don Barthelmess said those that had been lost were our friends and our family members and that our common love for diving binds us together for eternity.
In memory of the 34 that have lost their lives, officials arranged for the same amount of scuba tanks to take off.
Victims ranged from teenagers to people in their 60s, including a group of high school students with their parents, teachers, and a family of five celebrating their fathers birthday.
So far, 23 of the 33 bodies recovered have been positively identified through DNA and their family members around the world are being notified, Mr Brown said.
Many relatives have been tracked down as far away as Singapore, Japan and India.
The owner of the boat, Truth Aquatics Inc., pre-emptively filed a lawsuit on Thursday under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law, that could protect it from potentially costly payouts to families of the dead.
Critics condemned the companys move as disrespectful and callous, given the tragedy took place less than a week ago.
In a statement posted to Instagram on Friday, Truth Aquatics Inc. said the legal case was an unfortunate side of these tragedies and blamed insurance companies and other so-called stakeholders for its action.
It read: This wouldnt be something that we as a family would even consider.
The timing is on them. Our hearts and minds are on the tragedy and finding answers.
Authorities and the boat owners saRead More – Source