The California company that owned the scuba diving boat that caught fire and killed 34 people says a lawsuit it filed to head off litigation from families of the victims is an "unfortunate side" of such tragedies.
Truth Aquatics Inc. says in a statement Friday that the lawsuit is something the family-owned business wouldn't even consider but pinned the action on insurance companies and other so-called stakeholders.
The vessel burned early Monday off the California coast, with only five crew members surviving. They sued Thursday, invoking a law aimed at protecting the maritime industry.
Critics condemned the move, which comes as victims are still being identified and one remains missing.
Truth Aquatics says the timing is the responsibility of the insurers and stakeholders, and that while the company is grieving, it's only doing what experts advise.
In a posting on the Truth Aquatics Facebook page, owner/operator Glen Fritzler wrote:
"My family and I are speaking today with extremely heavy hearts. No words will ease the pain that loved ones are feeling. We extend our deepest condolences to all those involved in this horrific tragedy.
We have not yet made a public statement because we have been working tirelessly with the NTSB to find answers. As a member of the NTSB task force committee, we are prevented from commenting on details of this active investigation. We are committed to finding accurate answers as quickly as possible.
Yet, we can speak to our emotions. We are utterly crushed. We are devastated. We are a small, family-run business that has taken this event entirely to heart. Our customers are like family to us, many returning for decades. Our crew is family.
Our lives have been irreversibly changed by this tragedy and the sorrow it has caused. The families and friends of the victims and survivors are now, and forever, in our thoughts and prayers."