The operator of the Conception dive boat that caught fire Sept. 2 and killed 33 people aboard announced Tuesday morning that it is suspending all operations for a “to-be-determined amount of time” as the investigation into the deadly blaze continues.
Truth Aquatics made the announcement on Instagram with a statement that read: “With continued calls and requests for tours, we want to announce that we are officially suspending all operations of our Truth Aquatic fleet for a to-be-determined amount of time. We apologize to our customers who have been seeking reservations as well as those with reservations – and truly appreciate the expressions of support.”
The company operates two other vessels — Truth and Vision — though a company clerk told the News-Press Tuesday afternoon that the company hadn’t booked a trip since the Sept. 2 tragedy. There was a group aboard the Vision at the time that Conception caught fire and the group returned to the harbor shortly after the deadly fire broke out.
There were people aboard the Vision on Monday afternoon cleaning the vessel. The company intends on keeping its two vessels at the Santa Barbara Harbor for the time being, the clerk said.
Officials did not offer comment on the company’s Instagram announcement when reached by phone. The operators are continuing to assist investigators.
In the days after the fire, the FBI and other agencies spent several days searching Truth Aquatics’ Santa Barbara offices and at least one of the other boats. The U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board have both said there are no restrictions on Truth Aquatics opeartings its vessels.
“Right now we feel it’s important (to) dedicate our entire efforts to make our boats models of new regulations that we will continue to work on with the NTSB and Coast Guard,” the company’s statement read.
The NTSB’s preliminary report found that the entire crew was asleep before the fire was discovered. The vessel did not have a roaming night watchman, as is required by the Coast Guard.
The NTSB investigation is continuing and officials said they could return to inspect the salvaged vessel, according to reports.
The victims of what is considered the deadliest boat fire in the state’s modern history — and the worst maritime disaster ever in local waters — were sleeping below deck and were unable to escape the flames. Five crew members who were above deck were able to jump overboard.
Last week, federal investigators concluded their examination of the charred wreckage and were unable to determine the cause of the fire. The investigation into the origins and cause is continuing and a forensic examination may reveal the origin, according to reports.
The burned-out vessel was removed from the ocean floor and moved to a Ventura County dock on Sept. 12.
According to media reports, experts have worked to piece together the remains of the dive boat. Parts of the boat were also sent to laboratories for examination and authorities have scoured the seafloor for missing pieces.