Santa Barbara- S County

Carts of documents seized as Conception dive boat investigation expands

Multiple investigators in Truth Aquatics office

Federal investigators go through the decks of a Santa Barbara vessel similar to the ill-fated Conception dive boat where 34 passengers died last week.  (John Palminteri/

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Federal agents with a search warrant have spent hours going through documents and Truth Aquatics business records at the Sea Landing office in Santa Barbara, all relating to the deadly Conception dive boat fire.

Many people have seen the activity including Mark Banda, a Ventura County diver who is trying to make sense of the shocking loss of 34 lives.

"This just happened so fast. I can't believe nobody got out," said Banda.

He says it seems like everyone has an emotion or a comment in the diving world about this disaster.

"It's a very tight-knit community," said Banda. "I dive out of Ventura Dive and Sport by my home, and they knew all the guys on this cruise, and they all worked on each other's boat so it is a really tight community." 

The Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the FBI teams have been armed with search warrants since the weekend. They were inside the Sea Landing offices and onboard two of the boats with Truth Aquatics, the Vision and the Truth, now quietly docked and for the day, at least, out of service.

One of the agents in a full suit, took off his jacket and went down an access point to the lower deck. It was unclear if he was using a ladder or stairs.

No comments were made at the scene about the investigation.

The effort to retrieve key documents took place Sunday with some activity during the day and increasing after dark.   

Using the warrants,  multiple cart loads of information and evidence were cleared out from the Sea Landing offices by numerous  agents using big cardboard boxes and large plastic bags.

They are reportedly looking for operational, maintenance and training information.

When this investigation is over, Banda believes big changes are coming. 

"Things are a lot more regulated than they used to be, so I think you are going to see some sweeping regulations. Bigger hatches, bigger everything, smoke alarms and all kinds of other stuff."

A glass artist came to leave some of her work and her message along the memorial fence line near Sea Landing.  She hopes it will  help others.  Katie Stuart makes charitable donations year-round.

She showed one of her pieces and said,  "It's all connections and it is color connections, the swirls represent eternity and the ocean," said Stuart

Looking to the future, Banda said,   "I hope they find an answer real quick and get back to business again  because this is a fabulous dive spot I mean there is world renowned diving out here."

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