Dive boat captain Conception charged with 34 counts of manslaughter in deadly fire

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The captain of the California dive boat that caught fire in 2019, killing 34 people over a weekend, has been charged with manslaughter of a sailor, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Thirty-three passengers and a crew member died after a fire broke out on the Conception, a 75-foot dive vessel, in early September 2 off Santa Cruz Island.

Captain Jerry Nehl Boylan, who was one of five crewmembers who escaped, was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on 34 counts of manslaughter of a seafarer, the office said. US attorney in Los Angeles in a statement.

The indictment alleges misconduct and negligence, including not having night watch or patrolling – something federal transportation safety officials also pointed out in October.

The National Transportation Safety Board had also criticized the United States Coast Guard for failing to enforce the duty to post an itinerant night watchman.

The 34 people who died were sleeping under the bridge when the fire broke out. They were on a Labor Day weekend diving trip. Among the dead were five members of the same family and two students from the charter school.

Boylan, 67, of Santa Barbara, is expected to visit in the coming weeks, the US attorney’s office said. In addition to the lack of a night watch, the indictment also alleges failures in crew training and fire drills, prosecutors said.

The boat sank and the exact cause of the fire has not been determined.

Jennifer Homendy, a member of the NTSB, said in October that regardless of the ignition source, the focus should be on the conditions present “which have allowed the fire to go undetected and to develop to such an extent. such that it prevented the evacuation. “

Requests emailed to federal public defenders representing Boylan were not immediately returned Tuesday evening.

“Due to Captain Boylan’s alleged failures to follow well-established safety rules, an enjoyable vacation diving trip turned into a hellish nightmare as passengers and a crew member found themselves trapped in a bunkroom. set on fire with no way to escape, ”Hanna, a US attorney for the central district of California, said in a statement.

The NTSB blamed the fire on what it said was Truth Aquatics, Inc.’s failure to provide effective surveillance, including a roving patrol.

All of the deaths were attributed to smoke inhalation. The Federal Transportation Safety Board report concludes that most were awake but could not escape until they were defeated.

The Coast Guard was called about the fire at approximately 3:14 a.m. that morning.

The five crew members who survived slept in an area of ​​the upper deck, and those who died were in the dormitory below. These crew members tried to get help from those in the dormitory, but were prevented from reaching it by fire and thick smoke.

There were smoke detectors on board, but there were none in the main deck saloon above the bedroom, and this is where the crew members said they saw the fire, discovered the NTSB. A fire would have been involved there well before the smoke set off the detectors, he said.

Among its recommendations, the NTSB called for smoke detectors in all passenger areas, safer exits in the event of fire and that the Coast Guard create an inspection program to ensure that night patrols are carried out.

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