A tragic fire broke out on a scuba diving boat, killing 34 people. The passengers were asleep in a bunk room when the fire began. They were unable to escape. Flames and smoke blocked both exits making it impossible for the passengers to get out.
5 crew members attempted to rescue the passengers to no avail. Neither the crew members or passengers were able to enter the flame-filled hallway. The crew also attempted to break windows but were unable to rescue any passengers.
The heartbreaking fire left many wondering what went wrong.
The FBI and other agencies are pursuing an open investigation regarding the cause of the fire. The Coast Guard has served warrants to Truth Aquatics, the company that owned the boat, requesting documentation for boat maintenance, crew training and safety records.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Legalities of the boat fire
Truth Aquatics filed for protection under maritime law soon after the accident. A legal provision could limit the company’s liability if the owner can prove they had no knowledge of potential issues with the boat prior to the incident.
The company will have to prove that the ship had no damages or faults that led to the fire or kept the passengers from escaping.
If a judge rules that Truth Aquatics is protected under maritime law, the owners may not be held accountable for all damages. Instead, the owners would only be financially liable for the value of the vessel.
What charges could Truth Aquatics face?
Legal experts predict that Truth Aquatics will be responsible for the full damage caused by the fire. It may be difficult for the owners to prove that everything was working properly, the crew was fully-trained, and that all members acted in accordance with procedure.
Truth Aquatics could be facing criminal charges in addition to the civil lawsuits. Congress passed Seaman’s manslaughter in 1838. Under this legislation, owners, captains and crew members could be held responsible if a passenger died as a result of inattention to duties, negligence or misconduct.