Arnold & Itkin is currently representing one of five survivors who were aboard The Conception when a fire broke out early Labor Day morning. The boat was carrying 39 people—33 passengers and 6 crew members—when the fire started. Only 5 crew members were able to escape after finding they were not able to reach the 34 people who were trapped below deck. It’s the worst maritime disaster in California history.
Now, our team is fighting for answers for one of the crew members, a man who served as the vessel’s chef. Along with our client, we’re asserting that The Conception was not seaworthy and that a serious accident was inevitable on the boat as a result.
What Our Client Experienced
Our client had been employed on the boat for just weeks when the accident occurred. On the morning of the tragic accident, he was awoken by loud noises and quickly discovered that flames were rapidly engulfing the entire vessel. To escape the fire, our client had to jump from the top deck, breaking his leg in three places and injuring his back and neck. He and his crewmates had no choice but to jump off the boat after discovering that all escape hatches we inaccessible because of the flames.
In a comment to NBC News, Attorney Kurt Arnold relayed the terror felt by his client during the blaze. Attorney Arnold called the boat a “deathtrap” and cited the inadequate functionality of the boat’s second escape hatch. We assert that Truth Aquatics failed to comply with industry safety standards and did not properly train their employees for emergencies. The National Transportation Safety Board’s initial report confirmed that no members of the crew were patrolling the boat for safety as required by law.
Truth Aquatics Is Trying to Escape Liability
Just days after the accident claimed the lives of 34 people, attorneys for Truth Aquatics filed a petition using the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 to try and avoid financial responsibility for the fire. While this law once served a very important purpose, it is now regarded as a relic from a maritime era which is long passed. Now, it is used by negligent vessel owners to escape responsibility.
In a social post which is now deleted, Truth Aquatics called this legal move “another unfortunate side of these tragedies.” The petition was filed before the last body was recovered from the water. The petition forced survivors and the families of victims to face an uncomfortable legal obstacle: file a claim immediately or lose the ability to find answers for what happened to them forever.
“This is typical,” Arnold said. “They say they’re sorry... but behind their back they’re filing a limitation action. They didn’t have to, but they chose to.” Arnold continued, “He’s [our client] just trying to get stable at this point. As you can imagine, it’s quite a traumatic event.”
National Media Coverage
The tragedy of this story has resonated with people across the nation and has garnered the attention of major news outlets as a result. Journalism is an important aspect of cases such as this because it provides thorough and dependable reporting about the facts of a situation. When reporters share facts, negligent companies must answer for them and future companies will be able to avoid a similar tragedy.
The following news organizations have covered the California dive boat fire:
- The Washington Post
- Fox News
- Los Angeles Times
- NBC Nightly News
- NBC Los Angeles
- CBS Los Angeles
- Chicago Tribune
- Pacific Coast Business Times
- ABC 7
Most of this coverage focuses on the fact that all 34 of the victims were unable to escape and questions possible inadequacies with the boat's emergency hatches. Coverage also focuses on the fact that The Conception had no active watchman on duty and that the vessel’s crew did not receive training for handling emergencies. In short, it was only a matter of time until tragedy struck this dive boat.
CNN quoted Attorney Arnold as saying, “We find it hard to believe based upon what we know that the company had no knowledge that Conception failed to assign a night watchman and that the vessel was dangerously undermanned.”
Our team will fight for the answers that our client deserves and provide him with the peace of mind he deserves after such a traumatic event. Because of this vessel’s inadequate safety protocols, our client was not only sustained injuries, but he also had to face the horrific reality that he couldn’t help 34 trapped people before jumping off the vessel to save his life. We hope that the results of this case will be a message to other vessel owners: prioritize safety, protect passengers, and prevent future tragedies such as this.