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.