Coroner: All Victims of Dive Boat Fire Died of Smoke Inhalation

34 who perished on Conception in 2019 suffered carbon monoxide poisoning
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 22, 2020 7:05 AM CDT
Coroner: All Victims of Dive Boat Fire Died of Smoke Inhalation
In this Sept. 2, 2019, file photo, firefighters respond to a fire aboard the Conception dive boat fire in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Southern California.   (Ventura County Fire Department via AP, File)

Coroner's reports for the 34 victims who died in a scuba boat fire off the Southern California coast last year show they died of carbon monoxide poisoning before they were burned, authorities said Thursday. All 33 scuba divers and one crew member died in the Sept. 2 fire aboard the Conception, anchored off Santa Cruz Island. The only survivors were the captain and four other crew members, who were asleep above deck. The Santa Barbara County coroner's reports list smoke inhalation as the cause of death for the 34 victims, all of whom were in the below-deck bunk room when the fire broke out, per the AP. The manner of death is considered accidental, says Lt. Erik Raney of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. The predawn blaze swept through the boat anchored off the Channel Islands for a three-day excursion over Labor Day Weekend.

The survivors have said they awoke to find the boat engulfed in flames and were unable to reach the sleeping passengers or sixth crew member and had to jump in the water to save their own lives. Raney says the coroner’s office didn't do internal autopsies of the bodies. He said external examinations of the victims and black soot in their trachea, as well as toxicology tests, showed enough evidence of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning to avoid autopsies. Some of the victims were wearing clothes and shoes, Raney said. One held a cellphone, while another grasped a flashlight. Their bodies were not discovered in their cramped bunks: some were found on the surface of the water, others inside the boat's hull or on the ocean floor. The coroner's reports were first reported Tuesday by the Santa Barbara Independent.

(More Conception dive boat stories.)

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