LOS ANGELES (AP), The family members of 34 victims of a fire on a scuba diving vessel off the California coast have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Coast Guard claiming that the Coast Guard failed to enforce safety regulations and that the incident was fatal.
The Coast Guard repeatedly has certified passenger boats as fire traps, according to a lawyer who filed the wrongful-death lawsuit in U.S. District Court Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Attorney Jeffrey Goodman stated that Conception would never have been certified if the Coast Guard had properly inspected it. It would also not have set sail and these 34 people would not have died. Coast Guard is accustomed to certifying vessels that are not in compliance. It is time for the Coast Guard's accountability for failing to protect these victims and to prevent maritime disasters on America's waterways in the future.
A Coast Guard spokesperson declined to comment, citing a policy that does not allow for the discussion of pending litigation.
On Sept. 2, 2019, the Conception caught on fire just hours before dawn, killing all 33 passengers and one crew member. It was the most deadly maritime accident in American history.
Capt. Capt. After Boylan's mayday call, they couldn't put out the flames or rescue anyone. They jumped into the ocean and managed to survive.
Ryan Sims, one of the survivors, broke his leg while jumping and is now a plaintiff in this lawsuit.
Boylan pleaded not guilty in federal manslaughter cases for misconduct, negligence, and inattention. He was accused of failing to train his crew, conduct drills, and having a roving night-watchman on duty at night when the fire started.
Although the National Transportation Safety Board did not investigate the incident, it found that the fire was caused by human error. However, the board blamed the vessel owners for their negligence and stated that the failure to keep a night watch enabled flames to quickly spread.
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NTSB criticized the Coast Guard for failing to enforce the night watch requirement. It also criticized the agency for its insufficient rules regarding smoke detectors, emergency escapes, and other safety issues. The board offered several suggestions to the agency for improving safety aboard passenger vessels.
The Coast Guard, which has repeatedly ignored safety recommendations from the NTSB, stated earlier this year that it would implement some of these changes.
Coast Guard records show that the Conception passed its most recent safety inspections.
The Coast Guard was accused of negligently and carelessly certifying the boat, despite obvious violations. These violations included an overloaded electrical system which may have caused the fire. The Coast Guard stated that wiring was not up-to-standard for marine use and used cheap wire from hardware stores.
The fire started when the boat caught on fire and fell to the bottom. Investigators believe it started in an area where passengers were plugging in flashlights, phones and other lithium ion items.
According to the lawsuit, the boat's fire detection system and suppression systems were not in compliance. The two escape routes from the bunkroom also violate Coast Guard regulations as they lead to the same location.
Goodman stated that they had two ways out of the bunkroom, but both lead to the galley. How does it help if the fire is in the galley?
The family members of the deceased have also sued the company as well as the family who owned the vessel for wrongful deaths.