Sept. 6 (UPI) -- The owners of a dive boat that caught fire and killed nearly three dozen people on Labor Day have filed a motion in federal court saying they should not be held financially liable for the accident.
Glen and Dana Fritzler, owners of Truth Aquatics Inc., cited in the motion Thursday an 1851 maritime law that has absolved other boat owners of responsibility -- including the owners of the Titanic, the El Faro cargo vessel that sunk during a 2015 hurricane and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
Authorities are investigating the cause of Monday's fire near Santa Cruz Island, off Northern California. Many of the dead were sleeping below deck when the flames began.
The Fritzlers' motion said they exercised "reasonable care" to prepare the boat for its tour and it was "tight, staunch, and strong, fully and properly manned, equipped and supplied and in all respects seaworthy and fit for the service in which she was engaged."
Experts say the pre-emptive move could protect the Fritzlers from lawsuits filed by survivors and victims' families, but at least one questioned its timing.
"It is pretty heartless when not all the bodies have been recovered to file something saying their lives are worthless," Philadelphia attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said.
Thirty-four people died in Monday's fire. The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for the last missing victim on Tuesday.