Trial date set for Santa Barbara ship captain

November 12, 2022


The captain of the Santa Barbara-based dive boat that burst into flames in 2019, killing 33 passengers and one crew member, is scheduled for trial next month.

Jerry Nehl Boylan, 68, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge of gross negligence or misconduct by a ship operator. He was then released on bond.

A previous grand jury indictment found Boylan 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 then sought a new indictment alleging gross negligence.

While negligence relates to mistakes and carelessness, gross negligence requires prosecutors to show deliberate or reckless disregard.

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.