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Congressional Legislation Seeks To Overturn Effort To Block Lawsuits Connected To Deadly 2019 Dive Boat Fire in Channel Islands

Ventura County Fire Department
The remains of the dive boat Conception after a September 2019 fire which killed 34 people in the Channel Islands

34 people died in the "Conception" dive boat disaster.

Congressional legislation has been introduced to try to reform an 1850s law being used to try to block lawsuits over the 2019 dive boat fire in the Channel Islands which killed 34 people.

The authors of the bill are hoping to not only change the 170-year-old law, but to make it retroactive to help the families of those who died in the “Conception” boat fire.

The company which owned the Conception, Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics moved to invoke the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851. It stipulates that the owner of a boat, which is lost, may not be held financially liable after the fact because the boat has no value after it was destroyed.

Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara, and Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill would require owners of small passenger vessels to be held financially liable regardless of the value of the boat.

It includes a clause which would make it retroactive to include the Conception disaster.

33 passengers, and one crew member died when they were trapped below deck by an early morning fire off of Santa Cruz Island. Federal investigators never positively identified the cause of the blaze, but think it was linked to an electrical short, or a fire triggered by cell phone camera batteries. They say the lack of a roaming patrol by the crew contributed to the deaths.

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.