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Snapshot: Rapid DNA Identifies Conception Boat Fire Victims


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Thirty-four people died in a tragic boat fire on September 2, 2019, off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, California. Five crew members escaped with injuries after calling for help, but the intense fire aboard the Conception dive boat left the other victims unrecognizable. Thanks to a technology funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and developed by Massachusetts-  and Colorado-based ANDE Corporation, the 33 passengers and one crew member who died were quickly identified.

“The Santa Barbara Sheriff-Coroner relied heavily on a Rapid DNA instrument to identify the victims in 10 days,” said Chris Miles, the S&T Program Manager who led the S&T Rapid DNA project. “That is an amazingly fast resolution to the disaster that just wouldn’t have been possible before.”

The Rapid DNA instrument was on loan from another California jurisdiction – the Sacramento County Coroner and one of her deputies brought their own instrument, used last year during the Camp Fire, to help with the Santa Barbara incident. 

“It’s so great to see expertise being passed on to other local agencies,” Miles said.



U.S. Department of Homeland Security · · 202-282-8000