Search for boat-fire survivors suspended

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. The 27-foot Sea Ray cruiser, the "Casey Lynn," was first spotted on fire on Tuesday afternoon about two miles offshore, west of the Venice Pier. Smoke and flames could be seen for miles. The fire was extinguished, but no bodies were found aboard the boat or in the area.

The badly burned powerboat has been docked at the L.A. County Sheriff's station at the marina. The damage is extensive. Arson investigators have been examining the wreckage. But the focus of the investigation has been on interviews with family, friends and acquaintances of the owner of the "Casey Lynn," 53-year-old Michael Martinez.

The smoke and flames on the burning boat were visible for miles Tuesday evening. The boat was virtually destroyed by fire.

There were still no answers: What set off the blaze? What happened to the boat's owner?

"We still don't have any information as to whether or not a person was on board at the time of the fire," said Dr. Tim Wainscott, L.A. County Sheriff's Department Arson-Explosives investigator. "We do know the boat was recovered and extinguished and that there were no bodies on the boat at the time.

"We're at the early, preliminary stages of our investigation. We'll start out with the boat, conduct a fire investigation, origin of the cause on the boat, and then we'll go from there," said Wainscott.

Coast Guard crews searched the area overnight by air and boat and found no sign of survivors. Late Wednesday morning the Coast Guard search was suspended, though L.A. County Sheriff's Search and Rescue combed the water for victims.

Authorities do say the boat's owner, Martinez, is missing.

Martinez lives in Woodland Hills. He is employed as a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Calabasas. Co-workers described Martinez as a "gentleman" and an "endearing man." Some co-workers were distraught with the thought that something may have happened to him.

Neighbors in Woodland Hills also spoke highly of Martinez, expressing concern about the boat fire.

Martinez's mother declined to speak with Eyewitness New. Martinez's son went to see the damage to the boat on Wednesday. He said he had not spoken with his father in several days.

Authorities confirmed on Wednesday that they have spoken with Martinez's wife.

Because it is still early in the investigation, it was not clear whether the fire was intentionally set.

Anyone with information about the boat fire is urged to call the U.S. Coast Guard at (310) 521-3801.

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