The captain of the Conception liveaboard, which caught fire off the coast of California on September 2, 2019, has been indicted on 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter—one count for each of the victims who died that day. According to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, a federal grand jury alleges Jerry Nehl Boylan caused the deaths of 34 people “by his misconduct, negligence, and inattention to his duties.” Each charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
Five crew members, including the 67-year-old Boylan, were able to escape the burning vessel, while 33 passengers and one crew member died. They were sleeping below deck when flames engulfed the dive boat likely sparked by cellphones and batteries left charging overnight. The indictment cites three safety violations: failing to have a night watch or roving patrol, failing to conduct sufficient fire drills, and failing to conduct sufficient crew training.
“As a result of the alleged failures of Captain Boylan to follow well-established safety rules, a pleasant holiday dive trip turned into a hellish nightmare as passengers and one crew member found themselves trapped in a fiery bunkroom with no means of escape,” said US Attorney Nick Hanna. “The loss of life that day will forever impact the families of the 34 victims. With this indictment and our commitment to vigorously prosecute the case, we seek a small measure of justice for the victims and their loved ones.”
“Our hope is that this indictment leads to the prevention of boating accidents and the senseless destruction of lives through proper precautions and training,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the assistant director at the FBI’s office in LA. The family of Charles McIlvain, who died aboard the Conception, has renewed their call for Congress to pass the Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act, which seeks stricter standards for fire alarm systems and requires no fewer than two escape routes from all areas used by passengers.
Neither Boylan nor his attorneys have commented.
Jerry Boylan (from the website of Truth Aquatics, owner of the Conception)
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