Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

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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Edhat Staff

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37 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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!

  4. Not sure how this equates to a ‘feeding frenzy’. The guy is obviously physically messed up as a result of this accident, was first awake, tried to help as best he could and is now probably traumatized for life because of this. Yeah, feeding frenzy it is. Lame comment, Yeti. Lame.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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. .

  8. 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..!

  9. 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!

  10. 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…

  11. Yeti, as a Paleolithic mountain creature you may not understand how we modern humans organize our societies.
    Yes, in your world, when another Yeti wrongs you, you grab the nearest stick or rock and beat them up. Maybe you bring your Yeti family along and meet their Yeti family behind the 7-11 and duke it out to settle who is wrong and who is right. In our modern world, we have courts and sworn peace officers so that things can be settled without violence and its associated cost to society. We also have lawyers, who represent other humans in courts so that they get a fair hearing before an impartial judge or jury. So, Yeti, here is the lesson today–you may find it amusing to vilify lawyers–maybe you committed a crime or had an ugly divorce, but without lawyers there can be no courts system and without the courts we would have a bunch of neanderthals roaming the streets dispensing justice as they see fit.
    Not to say there aren’t unethical lawyers, just like there are unethical cops, and cooks, and scientists, and contractors, but to denigrate profession is to show a fundamental misunderstanding of how our society can function as well as it does.
    You’ve had your lesson, Yeti, now go play in the snow.

  12. 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?

  13. Very cute Alex, but the reality is that the average attorney in California earns LESS than $50,000 per year, due to the oversupply of young attorneys coming out of college hoping to make a fortune. As a result, this oversupply that is having a hard time surviving financially , focuses their attention on personal injury cases, ADA attacks of business owners/landlords and flinging a lot of stuff at the wall hoping that it will stick. This is a financial drain on our society and just raises the cost of doing business as a result. Members of society end up paying a lot more for insurance and for services and goods as a result. It is classic Econ 101 example. It is not a surprise that most politicians are attorneys and just look how screwed up our system is as a result. All walking around trying to figure out how to extort more money from lobbyists . I do know some very nice attorneys that perform important functions like estate planning and contract law.. but you can not deny the facts as stated above.

  14. 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.

  15. Oh, yes, all the hordes of attorneys killing it on the PI and ADA side of the business because that’s such easy money. Not.
    I’m sure you understand my point; there are lots and lots of attorneys protecting the financial interests of their clients, protecting your rights as a citizen, holding polluters accountable, etc., etc., etc., etc., but the attorney representing the poor bastard from he Conception disaster is thriving on carnage. Oooookay. What’s the guy supposed to do? Represent himself in court? Negotiate a settlement on his own behalf? Come on.

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