Ship boat

Judge throws 34 counts of manslaughter against captain of Santa Barbara ship

September 2, 2022

By KAREN VELIE

A federal judge on Friday filed an indictment for 34 counts of marine manslaughter against the captain of the Santa Barbara-based dive boat that caught fire in 2019, killing 33 passengers and a crew member.

Jerry Nehl Boylan, 68, as master and captain of the vessel, “was responsible for the safety and security of the vessel, its crew and its passengers”, according to the indictment. The grand jury indictment found he caused the deaths of 33 passengers and a crew member “by his misconduct, negligence and disregard of duty”.

However, the indictment did not specify that Boylan acted with gross negligence, a requirement to prove the manslaughter of a sailor, U.S. District Judge George Wu said.

Federal prosecutors plan to either appeal Judge Wu’s ruling or seek a new indictment alleging gross negligence.

The Conception, a 75-foot commercial dive vessel, was anchored north of Santa Cruz Island for a weekend dive excursion. In the early morning hours of September 2, 2019, a fire engulfed the boat and led to its sinking, resulting in the deaths of 34 people who slept below deck. Five crew members, including Boylan, were able to escape and survived.