The owners of the boat in the California fire that killed 34 blamed their insurers for a lawsuit aimed at limiting victims' payouts to $0

glen fritzler truth aquatics california boat fire

  • The owners of the diving vessel that caught fire in
    California and killed 34 people last week filed a pre-emptive
    lawsuit last week, seeking to limit payouts to the families of
    victims.
  • The lawsuit was filed three days after the boat caught
    fire, while families were still grieving, and bodies of the victims
    were still being removed from the water.
  • In response to a sharp backlash, Truth Aquatics Inc.
    blamed its insurers for the swift filing of the suit, citing legal
    precedent and saying “t
    he timing is on
    them.”
  • The FBI has opened a criminal probe into the
    company.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

The owners of the diving boat that caught fire in California
last week have blamed their insurers for a lawsuit that
they filed
to limit their payouts to victims’ families
, calling it an
“unfortunate side of these tragedies.”

The Conception vessel caught fire off Santa Cruz Island in early
last Monday. Of the 39 people on board the ship, only five
survived: the captain and four crew. As of Monday, one body is yet
to be recovered.

Truth Aquatics Inc., which owns the Conception, filed a lawsuit
on Thursday — three days after the fire — arguing that it
should not be liable to pay damages because the vessel was
seaworthy when it caught fire.

The company and its owners, Glen and Dana Fritzler, using a
maritime law from 1851, argued that their liability should be
limited to the value of the boat’s remains — which is
nothing.

Maritime legal experts called the move “heartless,” while also
noting that it is not uncommon.


You can read the lawsuit here.

california boat fire

Truth Aquatics answered the criticism in a series of
Facebook
and Instagram comments
on Friday and Saturday, in which it said that “insurance
companies”  and numerous unnamed “stakeholders” forced them to
file the lawsuit.

In normal circumstances, they “wouldn’t even consider” such a
course of action, the company said.

Here is the comment:

“Regarding the lawsuit, as we are learning, this is another
unfortunate side of these tragedies. This wouldn’t be something
that we as a family would even consider, yet when something like
this happens, insurance companies and numerous stakeholders convene
and activate a legal checklist. The timing is on them.

“Our hearts and minds are on the tragedy and finding answers. We
are a small-family run business. For 45 years we have never had an
incident. We are grieving and reeling and just doing what we are
advised by experts both on investigative and legal fronts.

“We understand there will be a lot of angst and anger around
this event.”

Truth Aquatics did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s
request for clarification into the “legal checklist” and the
actions of their insurers and other stakeholders.

california boat fire crime scene memorial

The comments came as the FBI, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Coast Guard opened a
criminal investigation into the company over the fire.

Authorities served warrants and searched Truth Aquatics’ offices
and the company’s two remaining boats on Sunday, but made no
arrests, according to the
Los Angeles Times
and Associated
Press
.

The US Coast Guard said last week that the Conception had

passed all its safety tests
before it set sail.

However, a preliminary investigation suggested that the boat
lacked safety measures, including somebody whose job it was to stay
awake in case of fires or other problems, the LA Times reported,
citing unnamed law-enforcement sources.

Read more:
A family of 5 on a birthday trip, a father-daughter duo who loved
diving, and a marine biologist leading the scuba expedition are
believed to be among the 34 California boat fire victims

california boat fire memorial hug

The Conception caught fire around 3 a.m. The crew members who
survived said they couldn’t get to the passengers, who were
sleeping below the ship’s hold.

They were also blocked from opening the doors of the galley
because of the flames,
officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said last
week
.

Read more: Crew
members who survived the California boat fire say they desperately
tried to save passengers sleeping on the ship’s lower deck

Truth Aquatics has yet to respond to Business Insider’s request
for comment on the ongoing criminal probe.

However, Glen Fritzler said in a Sunday night
statement
that the company is “prevented from commenting on
details of this active investigation.”

SEE ALSO: A
family of 5 on a birthday trip, a father-daughter duo who loved
diving, and a marine biologist leading the scuba expedition are
believed to be among the 34 California boat fire
victims


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