Lawyers for the families of three passengers and a crew member who were among 34 people killed in a fire on a dive boat off the coast of Santa Barbara — the worst such disaster in U.S. maritime history — filed wrongful death claims Monday against the vessel’s owners in Los Angeles federal court.
Plaintiffs allege that the inferno was likely caused by a heavily used battery-charging station, and was foreseeable and preventable in part due to the owners’ failure to have a required overnight watch person on duty when the flames broke out in the middle of the night Sept. 2 off the Santa Barbara coast.
The documents were filed as a counterclaim to a complaint filed preemptively by the boat owners to protect them from liability.
The families’ filings allege that the 75-foot, 41-year-old Conception was in blatant violation of numerous Coast Guard regulations, including failing to maintain an overnight “roving” safety watch and failure to provide a safe means for storing and charging lithium-ion batteries.
The Labor Day early morning fire is the subject of a criminal investigation by the FBI, Coast Guard and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in addition to the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation.
Only five people, all crew members, were able to escape the inferno.
The wrongful death claims were filed on behalf of Dr. Sanjeeri Deopujari, 31, a family dentist in Norwalk, Connecticut, and her husband, Kaustbh Nirmal, 33, a financial analyst in New York; Yulia Krashennaya, 40, of Berkeley, California, her partner, Daniel Garcia; and crew member Alexandra “Allie” Kurtz, 26, an Illinois native who lived in California.