VENTURA, Calif. – The confirmed death count from the boat fire near Santa Cruz Island on Labor Day has risen to 33 people with one person still missing.
A total of 33 victims were located from Monday into Wednesday with no other survivors. At this time all of the victims who have been recovered were transported to Coroner’s Office.
"Sadly, no additional survivors have been found," said Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown. "An additional 16 victims were located in yesterday afternoon's efforts and were brought back. This makes in total 20 victims who recovered and transported back."
There were 39 people on the 75-foot commercial diving vessel, the Conception, that caught fire around 3:30 a.m. near Santa Cruz Island, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Among the confirmed deceased are 11 females and nine males, who died in the boat fire. In a press conference Tuesday morning, police said additional bodies were located of the 14 people still missing, but crews were unable to reach them due to the instability of the wreckage until Wednesday.
At this time the only survivors are five crew members who awoke during the fire and managed to evacuate in time. A nearby boat called for help and rescued the five crew members, who will now be interviewed formally.
Although officials suggested the initial distress call may have emanated from the Conception, with subsequent calls for help coming from the Grape Escape -- the Good Samaritan vessel that rescued the five crew members.
U.S. Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester said in the press conference that all 34 people on board are presumed dead. The indication is the passengers were asleep at the time of the fire, stated Rochester, but that is not officially confirmed.
"As of 9:40 this morning, the Coast Guard has suspended search efforts," said Rochester. "No additional signs of distress of debris have been witnessed."
The Los Angeles County Medical Office and a special team with State Department of Justice are using rapid analysis DNA tools to identify the victims. DNA profiles will be matched from family members to identify the victims.
"An operation this large cannot be handled by a single agency," said Brown. "Today, our investigators will be reaching out to those family members who have contact us, the reason being we need to take familial DNA samples."
Sheriff Brown indicated that the escape routes from the lower deck were the passengers were sleeping may have been blocked by flames. Although there was no indication that any door or hatchway onboard the ship would've been locked.
"There are no locked doors in accommodation spaces aboard these vessels," said Rochester.
So far the search time has spanned over 24 hours. The teams will now switch from location to investigation to try and determine what caused the fire and whether it was preventable.
Some reports indicate that the crew of the Grape Escape heard explosions emanating from the burning boat.
However investigators wouldn't confirm that an explosion had caused the fire.
"There's no indication at this point in the investigation that there was an explosion that preceded the fire," said Brown.
Investigators are still working to determine what caused the fire, which broke out shortly after 3:00 a.m. on Monday.