Coast Guard issues safety recommendations after deadly boat fire

The Ventura County Fire Department released this

The Ventura County Fire Department released this

The last missing victim of the deadly dive boat fire off Santa Cruz Island that claimed the lives of 34 people was found Wednesday, CBS Los Angeles reported.

FILE - In this September 8, 2019 file photo, investigators check the Truth Aquatics office on the Santa Barbara Harbor in Santa Barbara, Calif. Authorities conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly scuba diving boat fire off the coast of Southern California last week plan to interview previous patrons of the boat company to determine what kind of safety information they were provided during trips, a law enforcement source said.

This photo from video provided by KABC-TV shows divers resuming their search Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 for the final missing victim who perished in a boat fire off the Southern California coast.

The burning boat sank in 65 feet of water and overturned as firefighters battled the flames.

A criminal investigation of the fire is being handled by the Coast Guard, FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire aboard the dive boat, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said this week, noting the boat has not even been brought to the surface.

DNA collected from family members is being used to identify the victims, who are believed to range in age from in their teens to their 60s, according to the sheriff's office. The agency sent a 16-member investigative team to the scene last week.

While it's not yet clear what the report will address, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy has said investigators are looking at several factors, including how batteries and electronics were stored and charged. The probe is expected to last at least a year. The others, who were in the lower sleeping deck, likely got trapped when the fire blocked their escape, authorities have said. When that didn't work, they ultimately had to look out for their own safety.

The survivors, which included the boat's captain, managed to escape by taking refuge in a nearby boat called the Grape Escape, which they reached on a dinghy after reportedly attempting to rescue the people below deck.

It remains under investigation whether the smoke detectors were working at the time of the blaze and if the crew attempted to use the firefighting equipment before abandoning ship, Rochester said.

The recommendations from the Coast Guard - which has convened a formal Marine Board of Investigation - also suggest owners and operators of vessels review emergency duties with the crew, identify emergency escapes, check all firefighting and lifesaving equipment onboard, and look at the condition of passenger accommodation spaces for "unsafe practices or other hazardous arrangements".