Victims in Labor Day Boat Fire Died of Smoke Inhalation, Coroner Says

Multiple Fatalities In Boat Fire Near Santa Cruz Island

Thirty-four people who perished in a scuba boat fire off the coast of Southern California over Labor Day weekend last year, died of carbon monoxide poisoning before they were burned, coroner's reports show.

Authorities said Thursday that 33 scuba divers and one crew member who were aboard the Conception, anchored off Santa Cruz Island, died in the fire. Five people survived, including the boat's captain and four other crew members who were sleeping above deck.

According to the Santa Barabara Coroner's Report, the cause of death for all 34 victims is listed as smoke inhalation. The victims were asleep in the below-deck bunk when the fire broke out in the early morning hours of Sept. 2nd. The manner of death is listed as accidental, Lt. Erik Raney of the Santa Barabara Sheriff's office said.

The victims' bodies were not discovered in their bunks, Raney said. Some were found on the surface of the water, while others were located inside the boat's hull or on the ocean floor. Some were wearing clothes and shoes, with one holding a cellphone while another held a flashlight.

Among the passengers on board was a 17-year-old girl celebrating her birthday with her parents and friends.

At least one crew member has sued the company, claiming that they had been operating in dangerous and did not have outline proper emergency evacuation procedures.

Among other claims in Ryan Sims's lawsuit, the former crew member alleges that the Conception's boat owners were negligent in failing to properly train crew members on the boat, give adequate safety and medical equipment, and provide safety rules.

Sims says in his lawsuit that he broke his leg while trying to reach passengers after he was awakened by loud noises and realized that the boat had caught fire. Sims broke his leg in three places after jumping from the top deck. The lawsuit lists the operators of the dive boat, Truth Aquatics Inc. Worldwide Diving Adventures, and the Conception's owner, Glen Fritzler according to the lawsuit filed in Ventura County Superior Court.

Photo: Getty Images

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