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Family of dead crew member sue California dive boat operator

LOS ANGELES (AP) —The family of the lone crew member to die in a fiery scuba boat disaster that killed all 33 passengers off the Southern California coast last year sued the vessel’s owner Jan. 13 in federal court.

The lawsuit by the family of Allie Kurtz claims the owners of Conception knew the boat was unsafe and lacked required smoke detectors and fire equipment.

Kurtz, 26, was a new crew member and the only one sleeping with the passengers in the berth below deck when the fire broke out in the middle of the night on Labor Day while the boat was anchored near an island off Santa Barbara.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation by federal prosecutors, the National Transportation Safety Board and Coast Guard.

The suit is the latest to counter a claim filed by the boat company, Truth Aquatics Inc., to shield the owners from damages under a pre-Civil War maritime law that limits liability of vessel owners.

For Kurtz’s family and other victims to move forward with their cases, they will have to show that the boat’s owners, who were on shore, should have known the boat was unsafe at the time of the fire.

The only survivors on the boat were the captain and four other crew members, who were all asleep above deck. They said they awoke to find the boat engulfed in flames and were unable to reach the sleeping passengers or Kurtz and had to jump in the water to save their own lives.

Authorities are looking into whether the boat had a night watchman on duty, as required under Coast Guard rules.

One crew member, who broke his leg trying to escape, has also sued the boat owners.

Boat owners Glen and Dana Fritzler have said in court papers that they “used reasonable care to make the Conception seaworthy, and she was, at all relevant times, tight, staunch, and strong, fully and properly manned, equipped and supplied and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the service in which she was engaged.”

Coast Guard records show the boat had passed its two most recent safety inspections without violations.

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One thought on “Family of dead crew member sue California dive boat operator

  • John J. McDevitt

    Early warning smoke detection has been around for 50 years. It is required everywhere you sleep and is required and enforced in all residential and commercial structures by the appropriate responsible agencies. So where can you put 34 people to sleep in a wooden / fiberglass structure with limited egress? …in a Coast Guard compliant Subchapter T Boat. Smoke alarms were not required in the area where the fire started. In today’s vessels we find all kinds of sophisticated radar, sonar, chart plotters, satellite TV, etc. but not smoke alarms. The Coast Guard should embrace main stream fire protection practice …and the upcoming NTSB report will say so.



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