By the edhat staff
A new report states a video from a victim’s cellphone showed the 34 passengers trapped inside the deadly Conception dive boat fire tried to escape.
The Los Angeles Times reports that investigators uncovered at least one video clip from a female diver’s damaged cellphone and showed it to several family members of the victims.
In the video, people can be seen trying to find a way out from below deck as smoke filled their sleeping quarters during Labor Day weekend in 2019. The Los Angeles Times released the findings on Thursday stating the video footage revealed “the increasingly desperate scene as smoke seeped below deck into the dive boat’s bunk room.”
The Times identified a victim’s brother who stated the video showed smoke coming in from the fans and down the stairwell. The recording was timestamped at 3:17 a.m., three minutes after the ship’s captain, Jerry Boylan, made the mayday call on the ship’s raido.
All 34 people, including one crew member, died on board as the crew members and Captain Boylan sleeping above deck abandoned ship and swam to safety shortly after making the mayday call.
Investigators have previously reported that those trapped on board had tried to escape and ultimately died of smoke inhalation.
A federal indictment states that Boylan “acted with a wanton or reckless disregard for human life by engaging in misconduct, gross negligence, and inattention to his duties on such vessel.” He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The months long National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) investigation revealed the incident was preventable and pointed to the probable cause as failure to provide oversite including a roving patrol at night.
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed legislation that includes a measure authored and championed by Santa Barbara County’s Congressman Salud Carbajal that updates maritime liability laws to help victims of boating disasters, a reform inspired by the 2019 Conception boat fire.
The Small Passenger Vessel Liability Fairness Act changes an 1851 law that can prevent maritime accident victims and their families from receiving compensation from those responsible for the accident. The new law signed Friday requires owners of small passenger vessels to be held legally responsible for damages in future boating accidents and incidents, regardless of the value of the boat. The period of time during which victims can file a claim is also increased from 6 months to 2 years.
“As Chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, I’m proud to see important reforms that I’ve fought for signed by President Biden today – including long-overdue updates to maritime liability laws that have denied victims’ families compensation for wrongful deaths at sea,” said Congressman Carbajal. “This is an important change, inspired by the families of the 34 precious lives lost on the Conception in 2019, that will ensure families of future maritime disasters do not face the same antiquated laws when seeking the support they deserve.”
The measure was included in the final Fiscal Year 2023 defense policy bill, which passed the House and Senate in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote overthe past few weeks.
Due to changes made to the bill prior to initial passage out of the House in March, the new law only applies to future liability claims.
Family members of the victims have filed wrongful death lawsuits in federal court and against the Conception’s operator, Truth Aquatics, and owners. Truth Aquatic’s other vessels stopped operating after the Conception tragedy and was later sold to Channel Islands Expeditions who made safety modifications to the vessels.
A civil lawsuit has also been filed against the U.S. Coast Guard for allowing the Conception to pass inspections in the face of clear safety violations.