By James Lapenta
I am departing from the usual format of writing about a topic that is specifically designed to help you be safer to remember all of the victims of the recent Truth Aquatics Conception dive boat fire. Thirty- four people lost their lives, andthecrewwasinjuredtryingto fight the fire and save passengers.
There have been many comments about the accident on numerous social media groups. My own Facebook group, Scuba Accidents and Risk Management Techniques for Divers, has more than half a dozen threads started. Some have been shut down and others deleted due to duplication.
It has also seen the removal of over a dozen members for inflammatory comments, profanity, insults, personal attacks, and assertions of “facts” that were nothing more than some anonymous sources opinion.
At the same time it has seen compassion, thoughtful speculation, and support for all of the victims. When I say all of the victims I do mean everyone associated with the accident. The deceased, the surviving crew, family members of the deceased and crew, the owner of the boat and his other staff, the friends of those mentioned above, and past, present, and future customers.
All of these are victims of this accident. As is the diving community as a whole, especially the liveaboard part. Every diver who has been or will be, perhaps even those on one right now, have this event on their minds. It would be impossible not to be thinking of this. A boat in the middle of a large body of water is essentially a tiny island that is supposed to be entirely self-sufficient. As such, precautions are taken to prevent an incident and to deal with one should it occur. Yet even the best plans may not be enough and not every conceivable issue can be foreseen. Or prepared for in every form under which it may takeplace.
Without speculating on the cause of this incident we can say that something catastrophic occurred. As a result lives were lost. Other lives have been altered forever. Some in ways they may not even realize at this point. Years down the road there will be effects that will have to be dealt with. Those effects will be physical, mental, emotional, and financial. Each one will have a recovery that is unique to each person.
The latter is now already beingdiscussed on social media andbeing mischaracterized as“heartless, cruel, a slap in theface, etc.” to the victims by the owner of the boat. This is being done for the most part by those who are ignorant of maritime law and how accidents, in general, are dealt with.
Dive professionals, shop andresort operators, and boat owners pay thousands of dollars every year to insurance carriers that dictate the response to events. The owner of the boat that sinks, catches fire, runs aground, or has a guest stub their toe and require treatment has to report this to the insurance company as soon as possible. If they do not, the insured is liable to be left high and dry when it comes time to be covered by the carrier of their policy. This is neither cruel or heartless on the part of the owner. They don’t have a say in the legal process that is set in motion at this point unless they are willing to give up the coverage they have paid for.
This coverage and the protections afforded in the form of lawyers and filings are just a fact of life in a litigious society. The owner of this boat and his staff lost friends, customers (some of whom were probably like family), and a loved one in at least one case. To paint them with a negative brush is what is truly cruel, heartless, and a slap in the face to the survivors.
For those who have been in a position where a person has died, and everything was done right, it’s a hard thing to see others treated this way. Make no mistake, there have been incidents where a professional or operation was at fault. Anyone who knows me knows that I feel those should be called out. Even when segments of the industry try to hide, minimize, or cover it up.
Should it come out, after a thorough investigation, that there was some assignable fault in this, then I will be one of the first to recognize it. Until such time, however, based on the operating history of this company and its reputation for safety, I do not believe that throwing insults at the owners for a legal procedure that they had no choice in doing is called for.
That’s what they paid the insurance company, who retain the lawyers, who will hire their own investigators on top of the NTSB, FBI, and local law enforcement, to do. They have done that. So the next time anyone thinks of smearing anyone associated with this, they should call their car or home insurer and ask what they should do in case of an accident. They will get told to not admit fault and don’t give any statements to anyone except law enforcement. Because if they do, are liable to find themselves kicked to the curb by the company once the case is dealt with. If not before.
Let the investigation run its course. Realize that there are going to be legal actions that the owners of the boat have no say over when they take place. Give them time to mentally and emotionally process what has just happened. Remember the deceased and ALL of the physically, mentally, and emotionally injured.
About James Lapenta
James Lapenta from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a Diver, dive Instructor, Author and owner of UDM Aquatic Services has been diving since 2004.
He is a Scuba Educators Instructor # 204, SDI/TDI Instructor # 16810, CMAS 2 Star Instructor # USAF0012000204
For more on basic skills and education pick up a copy of either of my books