By edhat staff
Conception Captain Jerry Boylan pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to manslaughter charges stemming from a fire that killed 34 people on board.
The scuba diving boat caught fire and sank off the coast of Platts Harbor in the Channel Islands on September 2, 2019. Thirty-three passengers and one crew member were asleep below deck when the fire broke out. They were unable to escape and died.
Four crew members and Captain Boylan, 67, who were sleeping on the upper areas of the boat survived in what’s been described as one of the deadliest maritime disasters in recent U.S. history.
Boylan was indicted in December and arraigned in a Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday for 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter, each count carrying a potential 10-year prison term.
Prosecutors alleged Boylan failed to follow safety protocols, failed to train his crew, conduct fire drills, and failed to have a roving night watchman on the boat when the fire sparked. He was accused of “misconduct, negligence and inattention.”
“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 United States Attorney Nick Hanna in the indictment. “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.”
Boylan appeared in front of Judge Jean Rosenbluth by video and reportedly spoke very little with short answers and pleading “not guilty.” He is expected to be released on a $250,000 bond, reports KTLA.
In October of 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated the fire was preventable and Truth Aquatics Inc., the company that owns the Conception and other dive boats, failed to ensure the safety of its passengers.
Truth Aquatics and its owners, Glen and Dana Fritzler, have not been charged with a crime but they have sued in federal court under a provision in maritime law to avoid payouts to the families of the victims. Although, the victim’s families have filed claims against the owners and the company.
This past February the U.S. Coast Guard officially updated Boat Safety Regulations that require all small passenger vessels to have interconnected fire alarms, smoke detectors, a roving watch, safety management systems, and two means of escape for passengers.