Judge tosses 34 counts of manslaughter against Santa Barbara ship captain

September 2, 2022


A federal judge on Friday tossed an indictment for 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter against the captain of the Santa Barbara-based dive boat that burst into flames in 2019, killing 33 passengers and one crew member.

Jerry Nehl Boylan, 68, as the captain and master 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 one crewmember “by his misconduct, negligence, and inattention to his duties.”

However, the indictment failed to specify that Boylan acted with gross negligence, a requirement in proving seaman’s manslaughter, said U.S. District Judge George Wu.

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

The Conception, a 75-foot commercial diving vessel, was anchored off the north side of Santa Cruz Island for a weekend diving excursion. During the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2019, a fire engulfed the boat and led to its sinking, resulted in the deaths of 34 people who had been sleeping below deck. Five crew members, including Boylan, were able to escape and survived.

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Forgive me; but how in the heck do that many people not just jump off the side? We’re they locked in? Fire/smoke spreads fast but….still seems odd.

As is normal with most boats, there is but one way in or out of the cabin. The fire, apparently, had already engulfed the hatch area, trapping all aboard.

This tragedy was awful. Was it preventable? Maybe with extensive remodeling of the cabin to include a second hatch, and installation of an expensive sprinkler system. But this was a dive boat, and the passengers fully understood the dangers involved in not only with their sport, but the means to participate.

You could make a law that details new boats be outfitted completely non-flammable, but at what expense, and how many would justify the cost to enter that business? Old boats are not cheap, new ones complying with that law would be astronomical.

Life is dangerous. It’s up to you to decide what danger you are willing to accept.

It appears the prosecutors did not prepare the case properly I.E. Do their homework ….Or they could not find gross negligence….or possibly they took the case to grand jury to appease the victims families …I heard a guy the other day stating “” A Grand Jury can find cause to convict a Ham Sandwich””……. Federal prosecutors are supposed to be the best in the business, Hmmm

A Federal Grand Jury can find cause to convict and the judge can just toss it?

Pay attention

Yes. That is how it works. No question mark needed.