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Owners of boat where dozens died off California file lawsuit against liability

The legal action being taken uses a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law.

A photo left at a memorial for the victims of the Conception vessel fire (Christian Monterrosa/AP)
A photo left at a memorial for the victims of the Conception vessel fire (Christian Monterrosa/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

The owners of the California dive boat where 34 people died in a fire have filed a lawsuit to avoid liability in the case.

Truth Aquatics Inc, which owned the Conception, filed a suit in the US District Court under a pre-Civil War provision of maritime law that allows it to limit its liability.

Anyone who can make a claim against the company will be served with notice the company is asserting it is not liable for damages from victims.

The suit said the company and owners Glen and Dana Fritzler made the boat seaworthy and the craft was properly manned and equipped.

A wooden cross and a sign that reads “Go With God” in Spanish are displayed at a memorial site for the victims of the diving boat Conception (Christian Monterrosa/AP)Charles Naylor, who represents victims in maritime law cases, says the action forces family members in their grief to respond to a lawsuit.

Earlier, investigators said the crew of the dive ship that sank off the Southern California coast made several attempts to save those who were trapped by the fire and died.

All those lost in the Labor Day tragedy were sleeping below deck when the fire broke out.

The captain and four crew members above deck survived.

Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the cause, said all five were interviewed and described the terrifying situation.

One was awakened by a noise and saw flames pouring from the galley area.

The fire spread quickly, and one crew member broke a leg jumping to the deck but still tried to get to the 33 passengers and one crew member in a bunk room below. The crew member was driven back by flames.

They also tried to get through windows to help those trapped but couldn’t and then abandoned ship. The crew soon returned in a skiff but couldn’t find any survivors.

Two Apple employees including an engineer who went on the trip with his wife and daughter to celebrate the teenager’s 17th birthday are among the victims.

Local law enforcement return from a day of searching for the remains of divers (Christian Monterrosa/AP)The Apple employees were Steve Salika and Dan Garcia.

Mr Salika’s wife Diana Adamic and the couple’s daughter Tia Salika were also aboard, company senior vice president Deirdre O’Brien said in a statement.

Ms O’Brien told the Mercury News newspaper that they were celebrating Tia’s 17th birthday.

Mr Salika met his wife at Apple where he worked for 30 years.

Ms O’Brien said his “energy and enthusiasm touched so many people across our company throughout his career” and that Mr Garcia “was as passionate about his job at Apple as he was about his love of diving. Both leave many friends behind and will be deeply missed”.

Also aboard was Lisa Fiedler, a 52-year-old hairdresser and photographer from the community of Mill Valley north of San Francisco, her mother Nancy Fiedler told San Francisco’s ABC affiliate, KGO television.

Lisa Fiedler loved nature and captured it in her photos, her mother said.

“Everybody loved her,” her mother said.

“She was a kind, gentle person.”

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Video released by the US Coast Guard shows a Coast Guard Sector San Diego MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter video screen, as crew responds to the vessel Conception boat fire (AP)

Another broken-hearted mother said on her Facebook page Tuesday that her three daughters, their father and his wife were among those presumed dead.

Susana Rosas of Stockton, California, posted that her three daughters, Evan, Nicole and Angela Quitasol, were with their father Michael Quitasol and stepmother Fernisa Sison.

Evan Quitasol was a nurse at St Joseph’s Medical Centre of Stockton, where her father and Ms Sison had worked after attending nursing school at San Joaquin Delta College.

“Everybody’s devastated,” said Dominic Selga, Sison’s ex-husband.

“What caused the fire, that’s the big question, that’s what we all want to know.”

Ms Rosas’ husband, Chris, told the Los Angeles Times that her sister, Angela, was a science teacher at a middle school in Stockton. Nicole worked for a Coronado restaurant called Nicky Rottens.

A GoFundMe page the restaurant to help the family described Nicole as “an adventurous & loving soul”.

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A shrine for the victims (Christian Monterrosa/AP)

The fire broke out shortly after 3am on Monday as the boat sat anchored in Platt’s Harbour off Santa Cruz Island, among the rugged, wind-swept isles that form Channel Islands National Park in the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles.

Those on board included students from Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, a public charter school for grades seven through 12, the school said.

Scott Chan, a physics teacher at American High School in Fremont, also was aboard with his daughter, said Brian Killgore, a spokesman for the Fremont Unified School District.

The district said in a statement that Mr Chan taught Advance Placement physics classes for the past three years.

“His students knew him to be an innovative and inspiring teacher who developed a passion for physics among his students,” the district said in a statement.

“His loss is a tremendous tragedy for our school district.”

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Authorities and FBI investigators cart away evidence (Christian Monterrosa/AP)

Mr Chan on his LinkedIn page described his teaching as driven by “passion and wealth of real-world experience from research laboratories, and the electronics, computer, and high-performance automotive industries”.

ABC affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix reported that an Arizona couple, Patricia Beitzinger and Neal Baltz, were on the trip.

“They went to heaven doing something they loved together,” Neal’s father, John Baltz, told the television station.

PA

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