FBI Searches Offices of Dive Boat Owner

Agents also searched company's 2 other boats
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2019 4:15 AM CDT
Search Warrants Issued in Boat Fire Investigation
FBI agents search the Truth dive boat, a sister vessel to the Conception, as authorities issue a search warrant for the Truth Aquatics' offices on the Santa Barbara Harbor in Santa Barbara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019.   (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)

Federal agents investigating the dive boat disaster that killed 34 people a week ago served search warrants Sunday at the headquarters of Truth Aquatics, the company that owned the Conception. Lt. Eric Raney with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office tells the Los Angeles Times that agents from the FBI, ATF, and the Coast Guard—who were seeking records relating to training, safety, and maintenance—removed boxes from the company's offices in Santa Barbara. Sources tell the Times that a preliminary investigation has raised questions about whether the crew was properly trained. The sources say investigators believe the boat did not have the required "roaming night watchman" to alert passengers to danger. The victims were sleeping below deck when fire broke out early on Labor Day.

The five surviving crew members have said they tried to rescue the 33 passengers and fellow crew member who were trapped below decks, but they were driven back by the fire. No arrests were made Sunday. Raney tells the AP that the search warrants were "a pretty standard" part of the investigation into whether a crime occurred. The search was "par for the course," he says. "You can only do so much with your basic investigative efforts, and at some point you have to use a search warrant as the means to collect information." He declined to say what evidence was given to a judge in order to obtain the warrants. The 75-foot boat is submerged in around 60 feet of water. Authorities say attempts to salvage it—and to find the one body that hasn't been recovered yet—have been delayed by rough weather but will resume Monday or Tuesday. (Truth Aquatics has filed a petition under an 1851 statute seeking to avoid liability in the deaths.)

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