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The captain of a California dive boat is sentenced to four years in prison for a fire incident that killed 34 people

The captain of a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based dive boat that caught fire and sank near Santa Cruz Island in 2019, killing 33 passengers and a crew member, was sentenced to 48 months in a U.S. prison, according to the federal department -Federal prison sentenced The judiciary announced this on Thursday, May 2nd.

Jerry Nehl Boylan, 70, of Santa Barbara, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge George H. Wu. A restitution hearing was scheduled for July 11.

At the end of a 10-day trial, a jury found Boylan guilty in November 2023 of misconduct or neglect of a ship's officer – a crime commonly referred to as “sailor's manslaughter.”

Boylan was the captain of Conceptiona passenger ship docked in Santa Barbara Harbor.

During a diving excursion over Labor Day weekend on September 1, 2019, the boat was carrying 33 passengers and six crew members, including Boylan.

In the early morning hours (local time) of September 2, 2019, a fire broke out while the boat was anchored in Platt Harbor, near Santa Cruz Island. The fire that engulfed the boat and caused it to sink resulted in the deaths of 34 people who had been sleeping below deck.

Five crew members, including Boylan, escaped and survived.

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada blamed the tragedy on Boylan's “cowardice and repeated failures.”

Boylan, as captain of Conception, made a series of mistakes – including abandoning his ship instead of rescuing passengers – that led to the disaster. Such conduct constituted misconduct, gross negligence and lack of attention to one's duties and resulted in the deaths of 34 victims, prosecutors argued.

As the ship's captain, Boylan was responsible for the safety of the ship, its passengers and its crew.

Federal prosecutors argued that he failed in his duties in several ways, including by:

  • there is a lack of a night watch or a hiking patrol;
  • inadequate fire drills and crew training were not conducted;
  • Failure to provide firefighting instructions or instructions to crew members after the fire has broken out;
  • failed to use fire-fighting equipment, including a fire ax and a fire extinguisher located next to him in the wheelhouse, to fight the fire or attempt to rescue trapped passengers;
  • did not take any life-saving or fire-fighting measures at the time of the fire, although he was uninjured;
  • Failure to use the boat's public address system to warn passengers and crew of the fire; And
  • He was the first crew member to leave the ship, although 33 passengers and one crew member were still alive and trapped below deck in the ship's sleeping quarters and needed help to escape.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated this matter.

Anna Harden

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