The owners of the dive boat Conception that caught fire off the California coast last year, killing 34 people, have asked a federal court to toss claims brought by the daughter of one of the victims for lack of proof.
Christina Quitasol, 41, filed the documents last month in a Los Angeles federal court as a counterclaim to a preemptive complaint brought by the dive boat’s owners seeking protection from liability.
Ms. Quitasol’s father, Michael Quitasol, 62, was one of the victims of the horrific fire that broke out aboard the Conception in the overnight hours of Sept. 2, 2019, as it was mooring off the coast of Santa Barbara. The 34 victims were asleep in the below-deck bunks when the fire broke out and prevented them from escaping to the boat’s upper deck.
Ms. Quitasol’s three siblings, Evan, 38, Nicole, 31, and Angela, 28, also perished in the fire with their father and his wife Fernisa Sison, 57.
In her claim, Ms. Quitasol alleges that the fire likely stemmed from an overloaded battery-charging station. The 75-foot Conception was built in 1978, long before the proliferation of cameras, smartphones, and other consumer electronics powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. She claims that the deadly fire was foreseeable and preventable.
CBS Los Angeles reports that previous filings by families of the victims allege that the Conception and its owners were in violation of several Coast Guard safety regulations, including failing to maintain an overnight “roving” safety watch and failing to provide a safe system for charging and storing lithium-ion batteries.
Attorneys for Truth Aquatics and company owners Glen and Dana Fritzler argue that the Quitasol claim fails “to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause, or causes, of action.” They are asking the court to permanently dismiss the counterclaim.
The Conception fire remains under an ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Coast Guard Marine Board Investigation are also probing the fire to determine the cause. Final reports of those investigations aren’t expected for several months.
In the meantime, passengers who take excursions on dive boats and other passenger vessels should assess these critical safety issues for themselves and go with an operator that has proactively taken safety measures that exceed the basic legal requirements. At Beasley Allen, our lawyers provide decades of experience in maritime law and helping those whose lives have been impacted by boating and shipping accidents.
Additional source: NBC Los Angeles