A boating trip off the coast of Santa Barbara on Labor Day turned deadly after a fire broke out and caused 34 fatalities. The first wrongful death lawsuit for this fire was filed in federal court in Los Angeles earlier this month.
The vessel, the Conception, caught fire in the predawn on Sept. 2. All 33 passengers and one crew member who was sleeping below deck were killed. The cause of the fire remains undetermined but federal authorities are continuing criminal and safety investigations.
The widow of a 58-year-old passenger filed the lawsuit. She claimed that the vessel was unsafe and was not equipped with smoke detectors or firefighting equipment. There were also insufficient exits and the required night watch was not on duty, according to the allegations.
The lawsuit also charges that the boat’s electrical system was unsafe. The plaintiff indicated that there was a tangle of electrical wires and cables where the passengers charged their battery-powered equipment such as phones, video cameras and strobe lights.
This boat passed its last two safety inspections without any violations, according to Coast Guard records. However, authorities said that all the boat’s six crew members where asleep when the fire started even though Coast guard regulations require a roving night watch.
This lawsuit was filed as a counterclaim to a lawsuit that the boat’s owners preemptively filed under 19th century maritime law. The owners’ lawsuit notifies anyone with a claim that they must contest the action by July 1, 2020.
Plaintiffs will have to demonstrate that the owners of the boat should have known that the boat was unsafe when the fire broke out. They were onshore at the time of the fire.
A crew member who was injured during their escape from the fire also filed a cause of action. The boat’s owners have said that they used reasonable care to make their vessel seaworthy and that it was properly equipped, supplied and manned.
Families who lose a loved one in a catastrophic accident should seek legal assistance. An attorney can help them determine whether there is enough evidence to seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.