Four families of victims of the fire on dive boat Conception last September 2nd off the coast of southern California have filed suit against the owners of the vessel. They announced through their attorneys on January 13th that they were suing the vessel’s owners Glen and Dana Fritzler of Truth Aquatics for failing to have a roving watch required by the Coast Guard, insufficient fire suppression and detection, and inadequate means of escape.
The claim was filed on behalf of three passengers: Yulia Krashennaya, Kaustubh Nirmal, Sanjeeri Deopujari, and one crew member, Allie Kurtz.
Robert Mongeluzzi, a lawyer representing the families, said that it was a federal law that someone at night patrol the vessel. He said that in addition to this failure, the crew was unprepared, the boat had insufficient emergency exits, and did not have proper charging capabilities for lithium-ion batteries.
Captain Boylan and four other crew members were sleeping above deck. They managed to escape as the boat caught fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. The 33 passengers and one crew member who were sleeping below deck were killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and U.S. Coast Guard are continuing an investigation into what caused the fire. The preliminary NTSB report did not point to a cause but stated all five surviving crew members were asleep at the time of the fire and the Conception did not have a roving night watchman. The boat was recorded as having passed its two most recent safety inspections without violations. The NTSB is expected to release a full report detailing the cause of the fire later this year.
Lawyers for the families stated the fire most likely began as a result of the lithium batteries for portable devices that were being charged in the boat’s galley. The USCG released a list of safety reminders a week after the fire, one of which was that boat operators should “consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.”
Three days after the fire the boat’s owner and operator Truth Aquatics Inc deployed an 1851 law, filing an action claiming it was not liable for any damages from the victims’ families because the vessel was seaworthy when it caught fire.
Three lawsuits have now been filed against Truth Aquatics.