Captain Receives Sentence After Deadly Fire

Captain Receives Sentence After Deadly Fire

( – The captain of a California scuba diving vessel has been sentenced over a fire that killed nearly three dozen people.

69-year-old Jerry Boylan of Santa Barbara will face four years behind bars and an additional three years of supervised release. He was found guilty on a single account of misconduct or negligence of a ship’s captain, a law passed before the US Civil War to garner more accountability among seafaring captains and crew members. It has since been nicknamed “seaman’s manslaughter.”

The incident occurred on September 2, 2019, Labor Day. Boyland had already anchored The Conception, a 75-foot boat made of fiberglass and wood, at the Santa Barbara Harbor. The boat housed 33 tourists and six employees, many of whom were asleep. At some point, a fire began engulfing the ship early in the morning. Boylan was the first person to abandon the boat almost immediately after the fire began. He passed an emergency ax and fire extinguisher on his way off the boat. He also neglected to alert the passengers with the boat’s PA system while ignoring other emergency procedures. Four members of his crew followed shortly after. All of them survived.

However, the boat’s deckhand was trapped with 33 passengers in the bunkroom. The ax could have been used to set them free, but no one else was available to use it. The fire eventually caused the ship to sink, killing all 34 people.

Boylan originally faced a potential 340 years for 34 counts after his cowardly act. However, his attorney argued that it was a single act, not 34 separate acts. A district judge agreed in 2022, sending his case back to trial while frustrating relatives of the victims. However, prosecutors eventually determined that he failed to properly train his staff and follow other emergency procedures. That included posting a roving watch, which allowed the fire to spread across much of the boat without detection.

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