Smoke inhalation probable cause of passenger deaths on California boat

The 34 people who died early last week when dive boat Conception caught fire and sank off Santa Cruze, an island off the southern California mainland coast, probably died from smoke inhalation. They could have been dead before flames consumed their bunk area, the county sheriff Bill Brown said on Friday September 6th.

Divers have so far recovered the burned remains of 33 victims. Crews hoped to find the final body when the 75-foot (23-meter) Conception was raised from the floor of the Pacific Ocean as early as Friday.

The Conception burst into flames at about 03:15 on Monday September 2nd. The five surviving crew members, who were above deck when the fire broke out, have told investigators the flames kept them from climbing down a narrow ladder into the bunk room or gaining access through a window.

Brown said that a coroner’s pathologist was certain that the victims died due to smoke inhalation, but added that the analysis was considered preliminary, pending toxicology tests.