Authorities said Monday they were now conducting a criminal probe into the fiery dive boat disaster that killed 34 off of the Southern California coast on Labor Day, authorities said Monday.
Federal agents said they were seeking evidence in support of an investigation into whether any federal law was broken.
The news comes after authorities served search warrants on Sunday at the Southern California company that owned the boat, Truth Aquatics in Santa Barbara.
U.S. & World
Agents with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies searched the company's offices and two remaining boats, Santa Barbara County sheriff's Lt. Erik Raney said.
The warrants served shortly after 9 a.m. are "a pretty standard" part of the ongoing investigation into the tragedy to determine whether any crimes were committed, he said. The office was ringed in red "crime scene" tape as more than a dozen agents took photos and carried out boxes.
Thirty-four people died when the Conception burned and sank before dawn on Sept. 2. They were sleeping in a cramped bunkroom below the main deck and their escape routes were blocked by fire.
The bodies of all but one victim have been recovered. The search for the final body was suspended this weekend because of strong winds and rough seas, Raney said.
Dive teams are hoping to get back in the water on Tuesday.
Authorities are focused on determining the cause of the fire and are looking at many things, including how batteries and electronics were stored and charged. They will also look into how the crew was trained and what crew members were doing at the time of the fire. The boat's design will also come under scrutiny, particularly whether a bunkroom escape hatch was adequate.
Five crew members jumped overboard after trying to rescue the 33 scuba divers and one crew member whose escape routes were blocked by fire, federal authorities and the boat's owner said. The crew, including the captain, said they were driven back by flames, smoke and heat.
They jumped from the bridge area to the main deck — one breaking a leg in the effort — and tried to get through the double doors of the galley, which were on fire.
That cut off both escape routes from the sleeping quarters: a stairway and an escape hatch that exited in the galley area. The crew then tried, but failed, to get into windows at the front of the vessel.
Truth Aquatics preemptively filed a lawsuit Thursday under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law that could protect it from potentially costly payouts to families of the dead, a move condemned by some observers as disrespectful and callous.
The company said in a statement posted Friday on Instagram that the lawsuit is an "unfortunate side of these tragedies" and pinned the action on insurance companies and other so-called stakeholders.