(RepublicanPress.org) – On September 2, 2019, 34 people died off the coast of California when a chartered scuba-diving vessel caught fire while anchored near Santa Cruz Island. The blaze quickly spread, sinking the boat and killing most of the people on board — except six. Of the survivors was the captain, who swiftly left the vessel with five other crew members before it sank. In December 2020, police indicted Captain Jerry Nehl Boylan for seaman’s manslaughter.
Nearly three years later, the court found Boylan guilty of misconduct or neglect of a ship’s officer. His federal trial only lasted 10 days, and he was the only person charged with a crime. The incident was referred to as one of the deadliest maritime disasters in the US. He now faces a decade behind bars for his crime.
A scuba dive boat captain was convicted Monday of criminal negligence in the deaths of 34 people killed in a fire aboard the vessel in 2019, the deadliest maritime disaster in recent U.S. history. https://t.co/3ZXzyM6ov1
— Anchorage Daily News (@adndotcom) November 7, 2023
The captain’s 2020 indictment laid out the circumstances of his arrest, which included violations of safety standards on the high seas. According to the document, he didn’t post a roving night watchman — who could’ve caught the blaze early — he didn’t conduct fire drills before setting sail, and he didn’t properly train his crew for such an emergency.
Sadly, all the passengers and one crew member died that fateful day. Soon after the tragedy, the Associated Press reported that the boat’s owners filed a lawsuit to protect themselves from liability — a move Tulane University Maritime Law Director Professor Martin Davies said seemed “pretty heartless” but that it was unsurprising. However, Boylan didn’t have the opportunity to hide from his responsibility, taking the brunt of the blame for the victims’ deaths.
While family members of the deceased were satisfied with the guilty verdict, the result didn’t dull their pain. Loved ones reportedly hugged each other and cried after the news spread of the court’s ruling. US Attorney Martin Estrada told reporters the captain “utterly failed” in his responsibility to protect everyone on the ship, according to AP.
Boylan will face sentencing in February. His attorneys neglected to answer any questions following the verdict.
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