Captain of the diving boat It caught fire and sank US prosecutors said an indictment was filed Tuesday off the coast of California in 2019, killing 34 people in one of the state’s deadliest marine disasters, on federal manslaughter charges.
According to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, each of the 34 sailors’ manslaughter charges brought back against Jerry Nehl Boylan, 67, of Santa Barbara, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if found guilty.
The prosecution statement said the indictment accuses Boylan of causing the deaths of 33 passengers and a crew member who died in a May Day boat fire over the weekend due to his “misconduct, negligence and disregard for his duties.”
The grand jury cited three specific federal safety violations – the failure to assign a night watch or mobile patrol on board the boat, or adequate crew training or adequate fire drill.
The victims were sleeping below deck aboard 75 feet of lamb when the ship caught fire in the early hours of the morning on September 2, 2019, while it was docked in Port Platte near Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara, during a sports diving expedition.
The five surviving crew members, including Boylan, were on deck in docks behind the wheelhouse and escaped by jumping off the boat as the burning boat sank into the Pacific Ocean. They told the investigators that the flames from the passenger quarters were so intense that no one trapped below could be rescued.
Forensic investigators determined that the victims died from smoke inhalation.
In the wake of the disaster, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a safety notice urging restrictions on the use of lithium-ion batteries and chargers on passenger ships. The document suggested that investigators were looking into the possibility that these batteries may have started a Conception fire.
Neither Willan nor his lawyer were immediately available for comment.
The US attorney general’s statement stated that federal prosecutors informed his attorney of the indictment after its submission, and he is expected to turn himself in to the authorities in the coming weeks.