March 24, 2023
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Conception dive boat fire survivor files for damages


The Conception, a dive boat based out of Santa Barbara, caught fire in the early morning of Sept. 2, killing 34 people. (File photo)

A crew member who was aboard the dive boat Conception when a fire broke out Labor Day weekend, sinking the vessel and killing 34 people, filed for damages against the owner Truth Aquatics and dive charter company Worldwide Diving Adventures.

In filings in Ventura County Superior Court, Ryan Sims said he was asleep on the top deck of the vessel when he was awakened by loud noises. He said the fire had trapped him and the other employees, forcing him to jump from the top deck, when he fractured his leg in three places, and sustained other injuries that required extensive medical treatment.

Among other claims, Sims alleged that Truth Aquatics did not properly maintain the vessel or train its employees, provide adequate safety equipment and rules. The vessel was operated with an obvious dangerous condition, the filing says, and did not have an adequate means of emergency evacuation.

Attorneys for Truth Aquatics did not immediately return calls from the Business Times. The company has said it took reasonable care to ensure the vessel was properly manned, equipped and maintained and filed in court shortly after the incident to limit its liability under a commonly invoked maritime law.

The Sept. 12 filing sought damages under the federal Jones Act, alleging unseaworthiness and general maritime negligence.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board reported similar accounts by four other crew members who were aboard the Conception when it was anchored at Platts Harbor off the Channel Islands on the final night of the three-day dive trip.

Investigators recovered the remains of the boat Sept. 12, and have not filed any charges or released information on the cause of the fire. The U.S. Coast Guard issued an advisory in response to the incident warning boat operators to review their emergency equipment and procedures, and pointed to potential fire hazards posed by lithium-ion batteries left to charge.

— Contact Marissa Nall at