Santa Barbara- S County

Coast Guard suspends search efforts for survivors of dive boat Conception fire

20 bodies recovered, more located in wreckage

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The United States Coast Guard has suspended the search for survivors of the dive boat Conception fire. 

Coast Guard Los Angeles Long Beach Sector Commander Captain Monica Rochester said the search was suspended after 24 hours of searching, multiple Coast Guard flyovers and no signs of distress or debris located in connection to the fire.

The focus of local law enforcement will transition to recovery as crews work to recover the bodies of those deceased.

As of Tuesday morning, 20 victims have been recovered and somewhere between five and seven bodies have been located inside the wreckage. Divers were unable to remove those bodies Monday night due to the positioning of the boat.

Dive crews hoped to be able to get into the wreckage on Tuesday to remove the located bodies and search for additional victims. 

Divers are mapping the search area based on water current and the debris field, which is about a half-mile in size. Divers will have to work in dangerous conditions as they navigate the wreckage about 65 feet below water.

The identities of the recovered victims are unclear at this time, but authorities said there were 9 men and 11 women recovered as of Tuesday morning. 

According to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, the process of notifying families is underway.

30 victim family members have been contacted and authorities are working to make contact with four additional families.

Victims will need to be identified using DNA and family member samples are currently being collected. 

A special team from the United States Department of Justice provided a DNA analysis tool which was used successfully to identify victims in the Camp Fire.

Brown said the process to identify the victims will be "a rapid process," completed quicker than traditional DNA identifying processes. 

The dive boat Conception caught fire about 20 yards off of Santa Cruz Island early Monday morning. 39 people were on the boat's manifest when it took off from the Santa Barbara Harbor. Five people were rescued, the remaining people are presumed deceased.  

The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Watch the Tuesday 10 a.m. press conference here:

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