SANTA BARBARA (AP) – The National Transportation Safety Board says all six crewmembers were asleep when a fire broke out in a scuba diving boat off the coast of California, killing 34 people.
The NTSB released a two-page preliminary report Thursday.
Authorities have said they were investigating if there was a night watchman on duty at the time.
The report comes a day after divers recovered the remains of the last missing victim, one of dozens who were trapped below deck.
The Coast Guard has released additional safety recommendations in the wake of the Sept. 2 tragedy, such as limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and the use of power strips and extension cords.
The FBI, Coast Guard and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles are conducting a criminal investigation.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Douglas Schwartz, the representing attorney for Truth Aquatics, released a statement in response for operator Flen Fritzler, saying:
“For the integrity of this investigation, the operator of Truth Aquatics, Glen Fritzler, is not able to speak to the media at this point in time. I can personally confirm that Glen, his family and his team are reeling from this tragedy and doing everything in their power to support the investigation into the cause and origin of this horrendous fire and find answers for the victims and survivors.
Since 1974, Truth Aquatics has been carefully monitoring and updating safety measures for their three operating dive vessels, passing every single annual Coast Guard inspection for the last 45 years, while hosting 450,000 divers on 1.3 million dives. Boating experts, insurance experts and longtime dive patrons have pointed to Truth Aquatics as a dive operator that sets the safety standard on the West Coast. While we don’t officially know the cause of the fire, we do believe from current evidence and testimonials that it was not caused by the operator, the boat or the crew, who acted heroically and did all in their power to try and save the lives of the passengers and their fellow crew member.
We all hope and anticipate new regulations will come as a result of the investigation. We would ask whether safety agencies that have been aware of the dangers of lithium ion batteries in other modes of transportation have considered applying this knowledge to the charter boating industry.”
Douglas Schwartz, representing attorney for Truth Aquatics
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