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California boat fire investigators hope burned remains of Conception hold vital clues

Richard Winton, Mark Puente and Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

The agency partnered with the Port of Los Angeles Police Department last week to search and recover remains, he said.

After deciding last week to not perform autopsies on the 34 victims, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Tuesday that his office is doing more tests on the victims.

"We have had some discussions and are doing some additional testing," Brown said before briefing county supervisors. "It doesn't change the opinion of the pathologist. The preliminary cause of death is due to smoke inhalation. It cannot be verified until toxicology results come in."

Brown declined to provide additional details on the testing or who participated in the discussions.

Last week, Brown said he consulted with local, state and federal authorities before making the decision to not conduct autopsies. External examination and toxicology samples were taken from each victim, he said. The final ruling on the causes of death will not come until investigators determine the cause of the fire, he added.

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors, Brown noted that the stairs and escape hatch in the Conception's berthing area emptied into the galley area -- the location of the fire.


Brown also told supervisors he expects his office to complete the DNA analysis this week on the remaining victims, noting DNA has come from China, Japan, Singapore and India.

(Winton and Puente reported from Santa Barbara, Wigglesworth from Los Angeles.)

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