California boat captain guilty over fire that killed 34

November 13, 2023

(United States)
The captain of a dive boat that caught fire and killed 34 people in California four years ago has been found guilty of negligence.

Jerry Boylan, 69, was convicted of one count of “seaman’s manslaughter” after a 10-day trial in Los Angeles.

Prosecutors said the captain failed to have a night watchman or conduct fire drills as required by law.

All 33 passengers and a crew member sleeping below deck died, among the worst maritime disasters in California.

The fire broke out in the early hours of the morning on 2 September 2019 while the Conception was moored in Platt’s Harbour near Santa Cruz Island, south of Santa Barbara.

It was hosting a diving expedition over the Labour Day holiday weekend.

Boylan was among five crew members who managed to escape the blaze on the 75-foot vessel. They escaped by jumping overboard and swimming to another vessel nearby.

The crew members told investigators at the time that the flames were too intense to save anyone trapped in the passenger quarters.

United States Attorney Martin Estrada said: “This ship captain’s unpardonable cowardice led to the deaths of 34 lives on Labor Day 2019. As the jury found, this tragedy could have been avoided had Mr. Boylan simply performed the duties he was entrusted to carry out. We hope that today’s verdict brings some solace and closure to the victims’ loved ones.”

Boylan faces a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars and will learn his fate on 8 February.

This is valid as of 13th November 2023.

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