In what the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office indicated as “par for the course,” the FBI confirmed to the News-Press that search warrants at the headquarters for Truth Aquatics, as well as both of its remaining vessels, were executed on Sunday morning.
Truth Aquatics is the owner of Conception, the dive boat that went up in flames on Labor Day, killing 34 passengers on board.
The search warrants were served by a combination of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Coast Guard — with the search efforts focused on acquiring training, safety and maintenance records.
When asked about what the FBI was specifically looking for, Laura Eimiller, a spokesperson for the agency, indicated that no further details could be released.
“The FBI and agency partners did serve federal warrants today, including at Truth Aquatics,” Ms. Eimiller said. “The affidavit in support of the warrants is under seal and so I’m unable to comment on the nature of the investigation or the evidence we sought.”
Santa Barbara County Lt. Erik Raney said that the search warrants in cases such as these are not out of the ordinary, as complex investigations require the acquisition of high level of information.
The trio of agencies spent the entire day within Truth Aquatics’ offices on Cabrillo Boulevard, as well as on board both Truth and Vision, the sister ships for Conception.
On Friday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown indicated that the Coroner’s Bureau and its pathologist will not conduct autopsies, determining that the victims died of smoke inhalation, at least for the first nine victims that were examined and positively identified.
Mr. Brown did say that no cause of death will be official until the investigation into the cause of the fire is complete.
As of Sunday night, 22 of the 33 recovered bodies had been identified, with only those names released to the public. Sheriff’s officials anticipate releasing the next 11 early this week.
The 34th body has yet to be recovered.
The extraction of the Conception was halted late Friday due to high winds that caused unsafe conditions for both the vessel and the divers aiding the efforts to get the dive boat aboard a barge. The team was able to get the boat right side up Friday — it had been inverted and under 62 feet of water since Monday morning — with the continuation of extraction expected to begin either today or Tuesday, according to the Coast Guard.
“This is an important step to this process,” Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester said. “It’s an incremental effort to make sure we try our deliberative best to make sure we keep the vessel intact.”