Legal Options Following The “Conception” Dive Boat Fire

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Attorney John H. “Jack” Hickey | 888-393-1388

A diving boat caught fire off the California coast, and almost everyone onboard died.

What caused this tragedy? Do the family members of the victims still have legal options?

To learn more, we spoke to board-certified admiralty and maritime lawyer John H. “Jack” Hickey. He is a personal injury and maritime lawyer based in Miami. He said that the family members of victims need to act fast. The owners of the vessel have already taken actions to guard themselves against litigation.

Call 888-393-1388 immediately or submit a contact form on this page to consult with the attorney. There’s no charge for the consultation, and you don’t owe any upfront legal fees. The attorney is only paid if your case is successful.

What happened onboard the Conception?

The Conception is a 75-foot vessel meant for diving expeditions. It had 39 people onboard at the time of the incident. They were on a dive trip near the Santa Cruz islands off the California coast.

The incident occurred around 3:15 am on Monday, September 2, which was Labor Day. A crew member said that she heard a loud bang around that time, but no smoke detector alarm. She then noticed a large amount of smoke and heat filling the vessel.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that the fire began in the galley. It later consumed the entire vessel. Only five people escaped, all of them crewmembers, one of them the captain. All told, 34 people died in the fire.

Several federal agencies are investigating this incident, including the FBI; NTSB; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the Santa Monica County Sheriff’s Department.

Is someone legally required to be awake at all times on boats like this?

All crewmembers seemed to be asleep at the time of the incident. There seem to be at least 2 areas of violations that caused this accident to happen and spiral out of control:

1. Commercial vessels like this are supposed to have a lookout at all times during the night. The Conception apparently did not have anyone on lookout duty. A crewmember needs to be awake, alert, and designated as a lookout.

2. This type of vessel (i.e. any commercial vessel greater than 26 feet in length) needs to have smoke detectors in certain areas, including the galley. Apparently there were no working smoke detectors in the area.

There is an investigation into what caused the fire to begin, and whether or not there were any violations involved.

Who is liable for these accidents and injuries?

The crew, the captain, the owners and operators of the boat could all be liable. The captain is always responsible for what happens on board as he or she is responsible for the ship’s operations. The owners and operators of vessel could also be liable.

Do the victims need to wait until criminal proceedings are done, or can they start their own civil suits now?

No. Family members of victims should not wait.

Owners of the vessel have rushed to federal court to limit their liability to the value of the vessel. The value is currently zero as it’s a burned-out hulk. This means the owners have already started building their defense, and the family members of victims need to act immediately to file claims.

What can the family members of the victims do?

They need to hire a maritime lawyer to insure they preserve their claims. They need someone well versed in limitation of liability actions and personal injury. Without preserving claim in federal court

Time is of the essence. Act now.

John H. “Jack” Hickey is a board-certified maritime lawyer with many years of success helping victims of water-related deaths and injuries. Call 888-393-1388 or submit a form on this page to set up a FREE consultation.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Hickey Law Firm, P.A.
1401 Brickell Avenue, Suite 510
Miami, Florida 33131