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Federal Investigation Into Deadly Channel Islands Boat Fire Steps Into High Gear

National Transportation Safety Board investigators brief reporters in Santa Barbara Wednesday afternoon on the Conception boat fire investigation

Authorities say they’ve now recovered the bodies of 33 of the 34 people who died in an excursion boat fire in the Channel Islands this week, and the search continues for the last victim.  Meanwhile, a team of federal investigators interviewed a number of people Wednesday who were involved in the tragedy.

The long, and difficult process of identifying the remains is underway. DNA tests are being used to try to identify the bodies of the victims of the Labor Day fire on board the boat “Conception.” 39 people were on the boat. Five crew members survived, so with 33 bodies recovered, divers are looking for the one remaining body.

A team of Los Angeles County divers was able to get into the wreckage of the boat Tuesday, and remove a number of bodies.

Santa Barbara County detectives are working on getting DNA samples from relatives of those who died. A new rapid DNA test used to identify victims of the deadly Northern California Camp fire is being used.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown says the process of conducting autopsies is also just getting underway. Los Angeles County is helping in the effort, supplying staff and special equipment.

Meanwhile, National Transportation Safety Board investigators are ramping up their efforts to find out what led to the deadly blaze. Wednesday was their first full day of work on the investigation. They met with the boat’s owner, some crew members, and some of the family members of those who died.

They also toured a similar boat at Santa Barbara Harbor to get an idea of the under deck layout.

The NTSB team confirmed there are plans to salvage the boat’s wreckage. It’s expected they’ll have a team on site for seven to ten days to collect everything from witness statements to physical evidence.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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