The Conception Dive Boat Fire Lawsuit

On September 2nd, 2019, California suffered one of the worst maritime recreational disasters in history. Truth Aquatics sent out their dive boat, the Conception, for what was supposed to be another normal dive trip. However, off the coast of Santa Cruz island, the Conception, the divers, and the crew, were struck by an unexpected fire. The 33 passengers and 1 crew member beneath the deck did not survive.

Having helped over 300 fire victims across California, the question that the Scuba Diving Certified attorneys at WJKA are trying to answer include: who is at fault, why did this happen and did people really have to die? 

Just because a boat fire happened, does not mean that people had to die. There are supposed to be safety checks in place to prevent this from happening.

We are investigating the origins of the fire and what was responsible for the death of the passengers. Was it gas? Was it fire? Was it the blast from an explosion?

And what caused the fire? Was it a gas leak coupled with an ignition point? Was the Conception equipped to detect a gas leak? Should the boat have been equipped with leak detection systems? 

The attorneys at Wagner and Jones are looking at all of the possible factors:

  1. What caused the fire?
  2. How did the fire spread so quickly?
  3. Were the crew members trained on what to do in case of an emergency?
  4. Were the passengers trained on how to handle emergencies?
  5. Did the poor layout of the boat contribute to the death of the passengers?
  6. Were the emergency exits obstructed?
  7. Were electrical systems involved?
  8. Were the fire alarms properly maintained?
  9. Were there unsecured flammable objects present to accelerate the fire?
  10. Was the emergency lighting system properly maintained?

Truth Aquatics Trying to Evade the Conception Dive Boat Fire Lawsuit

Truth Aquatics, in an effort to walk away with minimal losses, filed a lawsuit with the U.S District Court in LA using an antiquated maritime law from 1851. If successful, this law may limit Truth Aquatic’s liability. Due to this filing, families and victims now have limited time to bring forth their cases.

The Scuba Diving certified attorneys of Wagner and Jones believe there’s a strong case for negligence and that there is a way around the antiquated maritime law.

A Personal Message From Our Attorneys

Coping with the loss of a loved one can be one of the most trying times of your life. When your family member’s death was caused by another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, the grieving process only intensifies. You may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and receive the closure and financial compensation to which you and your family are entitled.

Wagner, Jones, Kopfman, and Artenian are experienced attorneys who currently represent over 300 fire victims. Our certified scuba diving lawyers will help you through this difficult process. Contact WJKA to receive a free consultation today.

What Happened With the Conception Dive Boat Fire?

The flames erupted early in the morning of Sept 2, 2019. At 3:30 AM, the U.S Coast Guard heard the mayday calls from the conception dive boat. However, by the time they arrived, it was already too late.

The 5 crew members who were above deck when the fire erupted managed to escape. The other 34 members, below and the deck and asleep, did not make it out.

“This is probably the worst-case scenario you can have,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. “It’s a vessel on the open sea in the middle of the night; it’s 3:30 in the morning … The sleeping compartment is on the bottom of the ship and they would be sound asleep … You couldn’t ask for a worse situation.”

How the Surviving Crew Members of The Conception Dive Boat Fire Responded

According to the local Santa Barbara news outlet, Noozhawk, 4 out of 5 of the surviving crew members of the Conception dive boat were administered alcohol tests, which they passed, as well as drug tests. The fifth member was not able to be tested as they were hospitalized.

It is expected that the preliminary report from the crew members will be released on September 14th, detailing their accounts of the events.

According to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the crew members were all cooperative.

The NTSB is collecting and analyzing all documents and resources in regards to the Conception dive boat fire including the inspection history, training procedures and documents, maintenance records, the mayday call recorded by the Cost Guard, and any manuals. Surprisingly, the Conception did not have a sprinkler system in case of a fire because the boat was not big enough to require one.

Wagner Jones, California Boating Accident Lawyer

The attorneys at Wagner and Jones, all scuba-diving certified, are looking into several key areas that could have been the cause of the Conception dive boat fire. These include:

  1. Potential mechanical negligence that sparked the fire.
  2. Potential electrical negligence that sparked the fire.
  3. Improper maintenance of fuel sources.
  4. Proper training of the crew and passengers in case of any emergency.
  5. Potential obstruction of the safety exits. 

The floor plan for the Conception dive boat, provided by Truth Aquatics, shows that there was only 1 staircase exit to the galley from below the deck. If the fire happened near that staircase, then everyone would have been fatally trapped and explains why the crew couldn’t rescue anyone.

According to the schematic, the only systematized fire suppression system was located in the engine room – did this mean, other than by fire extinguisher, that the vessel had no other way of dealing with fires?

To make matters worse, during the NTSB investigation, Jennifer Homendy decided to inspection the Vision, a similar scuba diving boat. What she found was astonishing. With the lights on, only 1 person could have escaped at a time. 

With the lights off, which was the case for the Conception during the fire, she had an extremely difficult time locating the hatch and even harder time finding the light switch. This was only with her team.

Imagining the chaos and panic of 34 people trapped in a flaming boat, in the dark, would have dramatically amplified the difficulty of finding the escape hatch and lights.

According to news sources, both the hatch and the galley staircase were quickly engulfed in flames, preventing the escape of anyone below the deck.

What caused the Conception Dive Boat Fire?

Because investigations are underway, it’s likely that we won’t know the official cause for a few months. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff has teamed up with the NTSB and are investigating the Conception Dive Boat Fire.

However, based on available information, it appears that the “fire” was not a fire, but was instead an explosion. This explains how the flames spread so quickly. 

The Santa Barbara Conception Boat Fire Victims

In order to respect the families of the victims, we will not be publishing the names of the conception boat fire victims on our website. However, CNN has been authorized to share a few of them.

Coverage of the Conception Boat Fire