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Dive Boat Captain Charged With Manslaughter In 2019 Fire Disaster That Killed 34 People

LOS ANGELES (CBS SF/AP) -- Federal manslaughter charges have been filed against a Southern California dive boat captain in the fiery deaths of 34 people who were trapped below deck last year.

A Los Angeles federal grand jury said Tuesday that Jerry Boylan was negligent when the fire broke out aboard the Conception on Sept. 2, 2019. Boylan and four crew members escaped from the flaming boat after he made a breathless mayday call.

The Conception fire is one of California's deadliest maritime disasters, prompting both criminal and safety investigations into the tragedy that claimed the lives of 33 passengers and one crew member on a Labor Day weekend expedition near an island off Santa Barbara.

FULL COVERAGE: Dive Boat Fire Claims Bay Area Lives

Among the victims were Apple employees Dan Garcia and Steve Salika, Salika's wife Diane Adamic and daughter Tia, Tia's classmate Berenice Felipe, and Scott Chan and his daughter Kendra.

Federal safety investigators faulted the owners of the vessel for a lack of oversight, but they were not charged with any crime.

The indictment alleges that Boylan caused the deaths of 33 passengers and one crew member "by his misconduct, negligence and inattention to his duties."

"As a result of the alleged failures of Captain Boylan to follow well-established safety rules, a pleasant holiday dive trip turned into a hellish nightmare as passengers and one crew member found themselves trapped in a fiery bunkroom with no means of escape," United States Attorney Nick Hanna said. "The loss of life that day will forever impact the families of the 34 victims. With this indictment and our commitment to vigorously prosecute the case, we seek a small measure of justice for the victims and their loved ones."

Prosecutors alleged Boylan failed to have a night watch or roving patrol, conduct fire drills and conduct sufficient crew training — all of which are required by the Code of Federal Regulations.

"This tragedy forever altered the lives of so many families and loved ones, and it deeply affected members of the public who watched in horror. We continue to grieve with them," Kristi K. Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, said. "Our hope is that this indictment leads to the prevention of boating accidents and the senseless destruction of lives through proper precautions and training."

Boylan is expected to self-surrender in the coming weeks. Each charge of seaman's manslaughter carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.




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