Santa Barbara boat fire: FBI investigating whether criminal violation occurred

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The FBI is investigating whether a criminal violation occurred in connection to the boat fire that killed 34 people last week off the Santa Barbara coast.

Federal officials said the FBI and the Coast Guard are working on the investigation jointly. The FBI doesn't investigate such a case unless it's possibly criminal, according to ABC News.

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The owner of the diving boat that was engulfed in fire off the coast of Santa Barbara says the crew tried desperately to save the passengers trapped by flames.


This news comes just one day after search warrants were served at the company that owned the scuba diving boat that caught fire, the Conception.

Agents with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies searched Truth Aquatics' offices in Santa Barbara and the company's two remaining boats on Sunday, Santa Barbara County sheriff's Lt. Erik Raney said.

Authorities are trying to determine if the fire could have been prevented and if anyone is personally responsible. They are looking at a number of safety issues including whether a night watchman was on duty when the fire broke out.

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A dive boat erupted into flames off the coast of Ventura County in southern California. There were 39 people on board, only five crew members were able to escape.


The warrants served shortly after 9 a.m. are "a pretty standard" part of the ongoing investigation into the tragedy to determine whether any crimes were committed, he said. The office was ringed in red "crime scene" tape as more than a dozen agents took photos and carried out boxes.

Thirty-four people died when the Conception burned and sank before dawn on Sept. 2. They were sleeping in a cramped bunkroom below the main deck and their escape routes were blocked by fire.

Ventura County coast boat fire timeline: How the search-and-rescue unfolded


RELATED: What we know about the victims in deadly blaze off Santa Cruz Island
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We're learning new details about the people who perished when the diving ship Conception burst into flames while anchored off the Santa Barbara coast.

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