Wreckage of Conception dive boat lifted off ocean floor

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The charred wreckage of the Conception dive boat was lifted off the ocean floor Thursday as crews worked to bring the vessel to shore for further investigation.

The remains of the 75-foot vessel have been underwater since the Labor Day fire that claimed the lives of 34 people aboard. Weather conditions have prevented efforts to raise the boat.

Aerial images showed the boat slowly being brought to surface by a crane near Santa Cruz Island.

US Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said earlier on Thursday that a crane would be used to lift the Conception toward the surface and then onto a barge.

"If there is still water in the vessel, we will de-water, drain it. Once empty, we will delicately lift the Conception onto the barge," Barney said. "...We don't want to damage one piece of important evidence."

Once safely secured aboard the transport barge, the vessel will be taken to an undisclosed location, he said.

The boat is likely to be taken to the Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme. In 2000, the wreckage of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 was towed to the naval facility after it crashed off the coast of Southern California.

The trek from the Channel Islands, where the Conception had been anchored, to the Ventura County shore is normally an hour and 15 minutes, Barney said.

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