NTSB investigating California dive boat fire: 'This was a terrible tragedy'

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived in California Tuesday morning to begin investigating a dive boat fire that is believed to have killed 34 people, according to a NTSB board member who said, “This was a terrible tragedy.”

Speaking with Martha MacCallum on “The Story” on Tuesday, NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy said the agency arrived around 10 a.m. PT and "immediately had a very thorough briefing with the Coast Guard to begin to get a lay of the land and really start thinking about our investigative protocols.”

Homendy said NTSB will have an organizational briefing on Tuesday night and “designate parties to the investigation. These are people that will provide technical expertise to help us conduct our safety investigation.”

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“We will also begin to form investigative groups to start to drill down on the issues,” she added.

Homendy said she’s “100 percent confident” investigators will find the cause of the fire that engulfed the vessel Conception. The dive boat caught fire before dawn Monday and sank near Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast.

Only five crew members on the boat escaped. One crew member who was sleeping below deck is presumed dead, as well as the 33 passengers who were below deck. On Tuesday, authorities called off a search for other survivors.

She said the crew has been cooperating with investigators and the U.S. Coast Guard.

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“We have put together a list of witnesses and interested persons that we will conduct interviews with, those include the crew and others over the next coming days,” Homendy said.

The NTSB plans to stay at the scene for up to 10 days to conduct those interviews, and will also look into safety measures aboard the boat, including if it was equipped with fire extinguishers.

Homendy told MacCallum she has seen a layout of the Conception on paper and NTSB investigators have also watched a safety briefing video, which allowed them to “generally see the layout of the vessel.”

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She said the NTSB plans to go to a sister vessel on Wednesday so that “we can really begin to see an almost identical or near-identical structure to understand where everything was at the time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.