May 23, 2024
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Conception captain sentenced to 4 years


The captain of a dive boat that caught fire in the Santa Barbara Channel in 2019, resulting in the deaths of 34 people, was sentenced to four years in federal prison on May 2.

The Conception, a dive boat based out of Santa Barbara, caught fire in the early morning of Sept. 2, 2019, killing 34 people.

Jerry Boylan of Santa Barbara was convicted in a federal jury trial in November of one count of misconduct or neglect of a ship officer – an offense commonly called “seaman’s manslaughter.” He was sentenced in Los Angeles by U.S. District Court Judge George Wu, who scheduled a restitution hearing for July 11.

“The defendant’s cowardice and repeated failures caused the horrific deaths of 34 people,” Martin Estrada, United States Attorney for the Central District of California, said in a press release.

Boylan’s boat, the Conception, was a 75-foot, wood-and-fiberglass passenger vessel that docked in Santa Barbara Harbor.  During a Labor Day weekend dive trip in 2019, the boat carried 33 passengers and six crew members, including Boylan.

During the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2019, a fire broke out while the boat was anchored in Platt’s Harbor near Santa Cruz Island.  The blaze, which engulfed the boat and led to its sinking, resulted in the deaths of 34 people who had been sleeping below deck.

Five crew members, including Boylan, were able to escape and survived. Prosecutors said that as captain of the vessel, Boylan committed a series of failures that resulted in the disaster. They included abandoning his ship instead of rescuing passengers.

Such conduct constituted misconduct, gross negligence, and inattention to his duties and led to the deaths, prosecutors argued. “The victims’ families will be forever devastated by this needless tragedy,” Estrada said. “While today’s sentence cannot fully heal their wounds, we hope that our efforts to hold this defendant criminally accountable brings some measure of healing to the families,” he said.