Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners

Conception Crew Member Suing Boat Owners title=
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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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.

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.

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.

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


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.


a-1569031897 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?

a-1569127714 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.


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