The authorities in Southern California said on Monday that they had searched the Santa Barbara offices of the business that operated the scuba diving vessel in which a fire erupted last week, leaving 34 people dead. The development could lead to criminal charges in the disaster.
Investigators searched the offices of Truth Aquatics as well as two other vessels operated by the company on Sunday and Monday, according to the F.B.I., one week after the boat, the Conception, burned and sank near the Channel Islands.
The United States Coast Guard, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office all participated in the searches.
It was not immediately clear what the authorities were looking for and what they found. No criminal charges had been filed, the authorities said.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, declined to comment further on the investigation and said that more detailed information about the search warrants was under seal.
The Los Angeles Times reported on the searches on Monday.
Truth Aquatics could not immediately be reached for comment by phone on Monday evening.
Little is known about what sparked the fire, which began in the early morning on Sept. 2 while passengers and crew members were sleeping and would become the state’s worst maritime disaster in recent memory. The Conception, a 75-foot scuba vessel, sat in Platt’s Harbor just north of Santa Cruz Island.
The boat had 39 people onboard — six crew members and 33 passengers. Five crew members were able to escape, including the captain.
Based on preliminary interviews with the five crew members, the authorities said the fire appeared to have started in the galley area between the deck above and the sleeping quarters below.
The National Transportation Safety Board began an investigation within a day of the tragedy.
Jennifer Homendy, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the crew members detailed a “harrowing” tragedy that quickly escalated. One crew member, Ms. Homendy said, was awakened by a loud noise and quickly noticed flames coming from the galley area below the deck. But he did not hear a smoke alarm, she added.
Crew members were unable to reach the galley from the deck through the main entrance — a set of double doors — because of fire and smoke. They were also unable to get in through the windows on the other side of the boat.
The sleeping quarters for the passengers was one floor below the galley. The boat was equipped with an emergency escape hatch between the sleeping quarters and the galley, which may have been blocked by the flames.
Ms. Homendy referred questions about any criminal investigation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“We’re in charge of the safety investigation,” she said. “We do not do criminal investigations. That’s their lane.”
Laura Eimiller, an F.B.I. spokeswoman, declined to comment about the searches. The Coast Guard referred questions to the United States Attorney’s Office.
One possible criminal charge investigators might consider bringing is known as “seaman’s manslaughter,” a law enforcement official said. That law targets misconduct or negligence by ship captains, other boat employees and business owners that lead to deaths.
The Conception itself is still underwater. Lt. Erik Raney of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said a salvage operation was stalled because of inclement weather. He noted that 33 of the 34 bodies had been recovered.
“We’re waiting until those winds die down, and those swells die down, before we get back in the water,” he said.
Read More About California’s Worst Maritime Disaster in Recent Memory