National News

Crew member who survived dive boat fire sues owners

Says staff were not properly trained

(CNN) - A crew member who survived the deadly Conception diving boat fire off the coast of California is suing the vessel's owners, saying the staff had not been properly trained.

Ryan Sims had been working as a steward on the Conception for about three weeks when the vessel was consumed by flames and 34 people on board were killed.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Sims says Truth Aquatics, the company that owns the Conception, was negligent because they failed to properly train crew members, did not provide adequate safety and medical equipment and failed to inspect the vessel, among several other claims. The document only provides a list of claims but does not provide specific details on them.

The suit also names Truth Aquatics owner Glen Fritzler and Worldwide Diving Adventures as defendants, the document shows.

The vessel was owned by Truth Aquatics and had been chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures.

Truth Aquatics did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. A statement from Worldwide Diving Adventures posted on the company's website said they are also grieving and will not answer any questions.

Sims was one of the five crew members who survived the Labor Day fire. He was asleep on the top deck of the boat when the fire broke out. He was forced to jump overboard when the fire quickly spread, and he fractured his leg, injured his back and neck, the lawsuit said.

He said he has not been paid "adequate maintenance and care" by the boat owners after he got injured while on the job, according to the suit.

Kurt Arnold, an attorney representing Sims, said in a statement that his client "suffered serious physical and psychological injuries" but he doesn't intend to draw attention away from the "suffering of 34 families who lost loved ones in the tragic fire."

Sims is seeking punitive damages, attorney fees and medical costs from his injuries, according to the suit.

In its preliminary report, the National Transportation Safety Board said the 75-foot-boat did not have a crewmember on roving overnight watch as required by its certificate.

"We find it hard to believe based upon what we know that the company had no knowledge that Conception failed to assign a night watchman and that the vessel was dangerously undermanned," Arnold said in his statement.

The NTSB report did not identify what may have caused the fire, and it made no recommendations for safety improvements. The NTSB typically waits until its investigation is completed to make recommendations.


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