Conception boat fire: Captain charged with 34 deaths

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Firefighters were unable to board the vessel to put the fire out as flames has already taken hold – Getty- Ventura image

BBC.COM-The captain of a scuba-diving boat that was destroyed by fire last year off California has been charged with 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter.

Jerry Nehl Boylan caused the deaths of those aboard the Conception “by his misconduct, negligence and inattention to his duties”, says the indictment.

Prosecutors allege the 67-year-old failed to have a night watchman or conduct fire drills as required by law.

All 33 passengers and a crew member sleeping below deck died.

Mr Boylan was among five crew who managed to escape the blaze on the 75-ft (23m) vessel off Santa Barbara on 2 September 2019.

He is expected to surrender to the authorities at a later date. Each charge of seaman’s manslaughter carries up to 10 years in federal prison.

A US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation determined the fire began in a middle deck area where lithium-ion batteries were being charged, though it was unclear exactly what ignited the blaze.

Kristi Johnson, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said on Tuesday: “This tragedy forever altered the lives of so many families and loved ones, and it deeply affected members of the public who watched in horror. We continue to grieve with them.

“Our hope is that this indictment leads to the prevention of boating accidents and the senseless destruction of lives through proper precautions and training.”

Nick Hanna, US attorney for the central district of California, said in a statement: “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.”

 

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