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Lawsuit Filed Against Coast Guard Over Deadly Dive Boat Fire In Channel Islands

Ventura County Fire Department
The remains of the Conception after a deadly fire which killed 34 people off of Santa Cruz Island.

Word of the suit comes on the second anniversary of the disaster which took 34 lives.

A lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Coast Guard over the deaths of the 34 people who died in a 2019 dive boat fire in the Channel Islands.

The Santa Barbara based dive boat Conception was hit by an early morning fire which trapped all 33 of the boat’s passengers, and one of the crew members below deck as they were sleeping.

Five crew members, who were on the upper deck when the fire started, survived by jumping overboard.

The federal lawsuit accuses the Coast Guard of failing to properly enforce regulations, and allowing the vessel to operate with electrical and safety problems which led to the deadly fire.

Suits have already been filed against the boat’s owner, Truth Aquatics.

The boat's captain, Jerry Boylan, faces 34 counts of a rarely used charge called “seaman's manslaughter.” He pled not guilty to the federal charges.

A federal investigation was unable to positively determine the cause of the fire. But, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled it was likely sparked by overheating lithium iron batteries from cell phones and cameras plugged into power strips. The report also said the lack of a roving night watchman contributed to the disaster.

September 2 marks the the second anniversary of the fire.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.