Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

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Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners
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The wreckage of the Conception dive boat was lifted off the ocean floor on Sept 12 for further investigation. (Photo of KTLA footage)

By edhat staff

A crew member who survived the deadly Conception boat fire on Labor Day is now suing the boat's owners.

The diving boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island on September 2 and killed 34 passengers who were asleep below deck. Five crew members survived by jumping off the boat.

Ryan Sims filed a lawsuit of September 12 alleging the Conception's owners were negligent in their failure to properly train crew members, give adequate safety and medical equipment and provide safety rules, among other claims, reports The Los Angeles Times.

The lawsuit was filed in Ventura County listing Truth Aquatics Inc., the company that owned the Conception boat; Glen Fritzler, the owner of Truth Aquatics; and Worldwide Diving Adventures, the company who chartered Conception for the weekend; as defendants. 

Sims was awakened by loud noises and realized a fire had broken out on the boat and was spreading fast. In an effort to escape, he jumped from the top deck breaking his leg in three places and injuring his back and neck, the lawsuit states.

Sims is seeking punitive damages as well as attorney fees and medical costs from his injuries.

Truth Aquatics filed a lawsuit to potentially limit their liability on September 5 in U.S. District Court of Los Angeles claiming it was not liable for any damages from the victims' families because the vessel was seaworthy when it caught fire.

Owners Glen and Dana Fritzler are named as plaintiffs in the filing which states, "At all relevant times, Plaintiffs used reasonable care to make the CONCEPTION seaworthy, and she was, at all relevant times, tight, staunch, and strong, fully and properly manned, equipped and supplied and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the service in which she was engaged."

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary report on September 12 stating all six crew members were asleep at the time of the fire. Five of the crew members were on the top deck when one of the crew woke up due to a noise and saw fire had engulfed the salon below.

He then alerted the rest of the crew where they made numerous attempts to reach the passengers below deck but were unable to due to the fire. Crew members were forced to jump overboard and contacted a nearby vessel to call for help, according to crew statements recorded in the NTSB report.

The 33 passengers and 1 crew member died from smoke inhalation, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Coroner. 

The U.S. Coast Guard and NTSB recovered the wreckage of the Conception boat on September 12 and continue their investigation. Criminal charges have not been filed but the U.S. Coast Guard issued an advisory warning boat operators to review their emergency equipment and procedures and pointed to potential fire hazards posed by lithium-ion batteries left to charge.

The final NTSB report will not be available for 12-18 months where a cause of the fire will be determined.

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a-1571479287 Sep 21, 2019 09:48 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Well, at least Island Packers is a dependable company we can still count on to safely take us to the islands safely.

a-1571479287 Sep 20, 2019 07:11 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

That's what workman's comp is for. He's just getting in ahead of the rest for an extra payout. I wonder if he was supposed to be on anchor watch at the time of the fire but was startled awake from sleeping on the job. Yeah, I know... speculation. But where was the deckhand on anchor watch?

CaptainObvious Sep 20, 2019 03:24 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Yaaargh..! Be DiveBoat Owners. Every square inch is money. Squeeze in more passengers. Make more dollars. Get great yelp reviews. Be USCG Inspector. New shiny paint..? Check. Smiling happy crew and customers...? Check. Payola for previous approval...? Check. Great yelp reviews...? Check. Issue Stamp of Approval. Be Captain. Command Amistad replica. Never understand fire hazard of charging outlets. Never foresee any problem at all. Get great yelp reviews. Be SportDiver. Go diving on great yelp review boat. Bring plenty of electronics and every camera you ever owned. Plug into powerstripopolis with every other grown adult present. Leave great yelp reviews. Be USCG fatality Inspector. Recover ALL remains for families..? Check. Haul burned out hulk from bottom of sea..? Check. Talk to a whole bunch of people..? Check. Look important and serious on camera..? Check. Issue warning against stupidity and greed..? Check. Case closed. Be Underpaid Crewmember. Work for fancy shiny dive company. See stupidity and greed everywhere. Realize stupid and greedy is about to scapegoat you. Get lawyer with great yelp reviews. Aye..!

Flicka Sep 20, 2019 11:08 AM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Probably part of the problem is no crew member was awake. At some point recently it was stated there was supposed to be someone awake at all times. That may have made a difference since the smoke alarms worked so maybe the clients could have been rescued if the fire was discovered sooner. Hard to judge this whole horrible situation until all the facts are in.

Channelfog Sep 22, 2019 10:03 AM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Flicka, I beg to differ. It was not part of the problem, it was THE problem. Had there been an active watch this would not have been so lethal. Basic seamanship, common sense and maritime law did not prevail.

flying_bosun Sep 20, 2019 06:19 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Follow up: this is the more appropriate and direct section of the CFRs “Section 185.410 Watchmen. The owner, charterer, master, or managing operator of a vessel carrying overnight passengers shall have a suitable number of watchmen patrol throughout the vessel during the night- time, whether or not the vessel is underway, to guard against, and give alarm in case of, a fire, man overboard, or other dangerous situation.

flying_bosun Sep 20, 2019 05:40 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

USCG certified Master of vessels up to 100 gross tons here. To clarify once and for all, section 15.705 of the Code of Federal Regulations absolutely requires a watch at all times. “The establishment of adequate watches is the responsibility of the vessel's master...(for) the direct performance of vessel operations...(and) maintenance or work necessary to the vessel's safe operation...(at) the minimum safe manning levels...(for) the crew to perform all operational evolutions, including emergencies, as well as those functions which may be assigned to persons in watches.” Furthermore, Rule 5 of the COLREGS (international rules that govern ALL vessels at sea) states “Every vessel shall at all times [even at anchor] maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate so as to make full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision .” Yes, it applies directly to risk of collision, but had the rule been followed, we can be reasonably assured that loss of life would have been entirely avoided.

CaptainObvious Sep 20, 2019 04:58 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Yaaargh Matey...! Be USCG Board of Investogatin'. Convene to determine cause of terrible stuff. Determine cause of terrible stuff is result of stupid and/or greedy. Recovene to determine solution to stupid and greedy. Forward findings and lack of findings to review board. Look important and serious on camera. Get great yelp reviews. Be USCG Board of Policy Implomentin' . Convene to discuss any findings and/or lack thereof. Determine that stupid and greedy are very difficult to legislate against. Reconvene to discuss legislative solutions to stupid and greedy. Implement new legislation requiring all boat owners to pay more money. Get great yelp reviews.

PitMix Sep 20, 2019 03:08 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

I'm sure all of the other diving boats in the world will now have a crew member awake at all times, especially when everyone else is sleeping. You don't need to have this lesson taught more than once.

Coolio Sep 20, 2019 09:34 AM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Filing a workers comp case is more a appropriate venue than filing suit in civil court if in fact he was an employee and not an independent contractor. Orthopedic and psych injury.

a-1571479287 Sep 20, 2019 03:48 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Workers comp claims are not that great, they do not provide any coverage for pain and suffering and the injured worker often gets substandard care! Any emotional trauma suffered from this event would not be covered under wc eithrt. It probably would have gotten filed workers comp automatically by the employer if have it so I'm thinking maybe there isn't any workers comp insurance to begin with. I guess we'll have to wait and see me!

Channelfog Sep 20, 2019 09:08 AM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

As a sailor, I do not understand why the whole crew was asleep at the same time and that there was no crew member on watch. Weather changes, anchors drag and rarely, something horendous like a fire breaks out. There were 6 crew, meaning that 1 or 2 crew could sleep during the day. If a crew member had been on watch...and awake..., I doubt this would have been a tragedy. Marine disasters are rarely the result of one error, rather it is usually a string of bad decisions, any one of which could have changed the disasterous outcome.

MyHonorStudentB Sep 20, 2019 07:16 AM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Attorneys play an important role in assigning liability they prompt whole industries to wake up and change their ways.

CaptainObvious Sep 20, 2019 05:21 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Aye Aye Governor... Be USCG Board of Safety Standarizin'. Determine that 1980 standards were really just 1930 standards. Determine that the "look the other way industrial complex" is entirely responsible. Reconvene to discuss changes to Safety Standards. Update all Safety Standards to 1980 requirements. Require all vessels have a pager charging station. Get great yelp reviews.

Factotum Sep 20, 2019 03:11 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Don't be so sure lawyers improve the industries (deep pockets) they sue. Medical malpractice law suits are the major reason US health care costs are so much higher than other countries and we end up way over-treated in the process. That is how lawyers "woke up" the health care industry and is also connected to why our health care outcomes are so dismal as well. .

a-1571479287 Sep 19, 2019 04:08 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

I would sue also. I doubt he has a bunch of money socked away for bills and things while he can't work, maybe has no insurance either, I'm sure it was horribly traumatic and yes, he's alive but victim shaming is bogus, he is damaged from it. The rest of the crew will have emotional damage also, it's unavoidable!

a-1571479287 Sep 20, 2019 07:25 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

PITMIX... the reason we're in the mess we're in is due to the court of public opinion asserting itself in matters it has no knowledge, experience or expertise in. Please go back to watching videos and maybe pick up some knowledge along the way.

PitMix Sep 20, 2019 08:50 AM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

We're just trying to make sense of the situation based on the available information. Isn't that how the world works? Or should we just go back to streaming videos and let the experts take care of it? Isn't that how we got into this mess in the 1st place?

a-1571479287 Sep 19, 2019 02:14 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

It's probably too soon, but does anyone know if the other Truth Aquatics boats are running again out of SB? If not, is there a date to resume operations?

tagdes Sep 19, 2019 02:52 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

According to Marine Traffic Truth has been docked here since 9/6 and Vision since 9/2. Neither have gone out or are scheduled to leave.

hz Sep 19, 2019 02:03 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

lawyers having a field day...millions of dollars...the feeding frenzy begins. It is a really sad thing though that so many innocent people had to die. Three tiers of bunks, cramming as many people as possible on the boat..serious overcrowding...even without a fire.. if the boat was sinking...there was not enough room for all those people to get out from under... :0{ Hopefully corrections will be made and numbers of passengers to be limited for the future...

Alexblue Sep 20, 2019 08:11 AM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

If the boat had just been sinking most or all would have gotten out unless it had literally been run down by a cargo vessel.

a-1571479287 Sep 19, 2019 02:56 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

The boat had well under the maximum number of occupants designated by the Coast Guard. Not sure why you think it was overcrowded or what experience you have in determining max occupancy of a vessel.

FredMertzEE Sep 19, 2019 01:55 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

The case is probably going to be removed to federal court and then subject to a bunch of motions to dismiss. The complaint is so barren of factual allegations that they are going to hard time defeating a motion to dismiss without making substantial amendments.

CaptainObvious Sep 20, 2019 05:48 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Yaaargh..!... Ye leadin' a keel haulin' of the boy..?... She could nigh' carry the weight of all the apathy, indifference and negligence that her hold had been loaded with over the years.... You want to put all that cargo on the shoulders of the boy...? Your a brave man Admiral ... Aye....

Yeti Sep 19, 2019 12:53 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Just for the record, I said that this MAY become another feeding frenzy. Kinda seems like it though, since he did include Worldwide Diving Adventures as a defendant in the lawsuit. Sad to sue his client that mistakenly hired the boat and crew for the purpose of providing a safe adventure. The chase for deep pockets continues.

oops Sep 19, 2019 01:23 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

the attorney's name EVERBODY. If they can find the out the manufacturer's of any one of the batteries being charged on the boat that night - they are TOAST...regardless if it was their battery or not or even may not have caused the fire.

PitMix Sep 19, 2019 12:33 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

If this guy is successful, it makes a strong case for liability on the part of the owner in which case the legal move the owner made to limit their damages will not work. Will take years to work all this out.

flying_bosun Sep 19, 2019 12:21 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

It’s quite possible, Roger, that he wasn’t experienced enough to recognize the vessel’s safety and/or training shortfalls. Many of the crew hired for these types of operations are barely adults and have little to zero sea time under theirs belts prior to going out as crew.

tagdes Sep 19, 2019 01:13 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Bosun that doesn't seem to be the case here. From the videos of him being brought in from the Grape Escape he definitely was not barely an adult.

CaptainObvious Sep 20, 2019 06:20 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Aye.... I shall add, that anyone who owns, knowingly contributed to, or witnessed a "Powerstrip Scultpture", has experienced a very real neurological response telling them that is something very wrong. If, this scenario turns out to be the cause, and this cause has no legal measures of prevention aside than common sense and decency, then we have to accept that apathy and indifference are here to stay... How many days does one have to look at an obvious fire hazard whilst cramped inside of a flammable structure before the cognitive dissonance sets in and the comfort that "at least it wont be my fault anyway" becomes a daily mantra...

Lina24 Sep 20, 2019 02:30 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

He was young and probably trusted that the more experienced crew members knew better. I remember feeling that way before, when I was young. Bottom line, young or old, we need to trust our instincts and not be afraid to be called a "wimp" or whatever for listening to our gut.

a-1571479287 Sep 19, 2019 12:06 PM
Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Quite common in the oil industry to keep your job and fear for your safety. Why wouldn't that be the case in any other profession?

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