Families sue Coast Guard, charging wrongful death two years after Conception boat fire killed 34 people – Daily News

Families sue Coast Guard, charging wrongful death two years after Conception boat fire killed 34 people – Daily News


Family members of victims killed two years ago, when a dive boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Coast Guard alleging wrongful death in the tragedy that claimed 34 lives.

The Coast Guard certified the boat, named Conception, to carry passengers after routine inspection in 2019 even though the “overburdened shipboard electrical system had been designed, developed, built, installed and refurbished without adequate fire protection,” alleged the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles..

The Coast Guard under federal law conducts annual inspections and certifications of boats like the Conception, including biannual hull and structural examinations.

In 2018, a year before the massive fire, Conception’s sister ship, Vision, also owned by Truth Aquatics, nearly had its own fire, according to the lawsuit. Smoke rose from two lithium batteries that were plugged into a power strip on board, but a passenger was able to safely smother the fire.

The lawsuit alleges the Coast Guard, through its inspections, should have known that Truth Aquatics “added undocumented and ill-designed electrical outlets throughout the vessel for the purpose of battery charging” and encouraged passengers to charge their electronics on board, including lithium batteries.

In the early hours of Sept. 2, 2019, crew members on board discovered a fire that killed all 33 passengers on board and one crew member. It was the worst maritime disaster in California since the 1800s.

Federal safety officials blamed the disaster on Truth Aquatics’ lack of oversight, including having a required roving patrol that officials said could have alerted those on board earlier when the fire started.

The boat’s owners have also been sued by family members who allege wrongful death.  The boat’s captain, Jerry Boylan, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of manslaughter.

The Coast Guard has not yet responded to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The Conception fire prompted the Coast Guard and Congress to reexamine small passenger vessel regulations and training exercises were implemented as part of a Coast Guard-wide overhaul aimed at reducing passenger vessel safety infractions that could result in deaths at sea, officials have said.

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