The captain of the dive boat Conception, which was destroyed last year in a fire in the Santa Barbara Channel that killed 34 people, was indicted Dec. 1 by a federal grand jury on manslaughter charges.
Jerry Nehl Boylan, 67, of Santa Barbara, faces 34 charges of “seaman’s manslaughter,” and each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. He was notified of the indictment after it was filed, and is expected to surrender to federal authorities in the coming weeks, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
Boylan was the captain of the Conception, a 75-foot boat that ran scuba diving tours out of Santa Barbara Harbor for the company Truth Aquatics.
The boat was anchored near Santa Cruz Island in the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2019, when a fire broke out below deck. All 33 passengers and one of the boat’s six crew members were sleeping below deck and died. Boylan and the other crew members were sleeping above deck and jumped off of the burning boat.
The indictment alleges that Boylan caused the 34 deaths “by his misconduct, negligence, and inattention to his duties.” Specifically, the indictment states, he failed to post a night watch, failed to conduct sufficient fire drills, and failed to properly train his crew for emergencies. All three measures are required by federal regulations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In October, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the passengers and crew member could have escaped the fire if a night watch had been posted. It did not reach a conclusion on the cause of the fire, though its investigator did identify a few possible ignition sources, including electrical systems and charging batteries for passengers’ cameras and phones.