California dive boat captain faces new federal cost in fireplace that killed 34

A federal grant jury issued a brand new indictment Tuesday in opposition to a dive boat captain, alleging that he acted with gross negligence when a 2019 fireplace aboard his vessel led to the deaths of 34 individuals off the Southern California coast.

The brand new indictment comes greater than a month after a judge threw out the unique case as a result of it did not specify that Captain Jerry Boylan acted with gross negligence aboard the Conception throughout one of many deadliest maritime disasters in latest U.S. historical past.

Boylan, 68, is once more charged with a single depend of misconduct or neglect of ship officer, a pre-Civil Battle statute colloquially often known as “seaman’s manslaughter” that was designed to carry steamboat captains and crew answerable for maritime disasters. He faces 10 years in jail and is anticipated to be arraigned within the coming weeks. His federal public defenders didn’t instantly return a request for remark Tuesday.

Households of 11 victims praised the brand new cost in opposition to Boylan.

“This tragedy was completely preventable and as a consequence of his negligence and inaction 34 lives had been misplaced and our lives modified endlessly,” the households mentioned in a press release.

The Conception went down in flames on Sept. 2, 2019, close to an island off the coast of Santa Barbara. All 33 passengers and a crew member who had been trapped in a bunk room under deck died. Boylan and 4 different crew members escaped.

Dive boat fire Santa Barbara California Conception
FILE — Members of the FBI and different officers work in entrance of the ship Fact, a sister ship of the diving ship Conception, on Sept. 3, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California, following a blaze aboard the dive boat Conception which claimed the lives of 34 individuals. 

Getty Photos

Tuesday’s indictment alleges that Boylan “acted with a wanton or reckless disregard for human life by participating in misconduct, gross negligence and inattention to his duties.” He’s accused of failing to coach his crew, conduct fireplace drills and publish a roving night time watchman on the boat when the hearth ignited.

Though federal security investigators never found the cause of the fire, officers blamed the homeowners of the vessel, Fact Aquatics Inc., for a scarcity of oversight, although they weren’t charged with against the law.

Investigators had thought-about at one level that the hearth might have been sparked by overheated lithium ion batteries. The tragedy led the U.S. Coast Guard to reissue its emergency water security tips, which embody limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium ion batteries.

Surviving crew members additionally instructed the NTSB that the boat’s smoke alarms never went off.  A preliminary NTSB report discovered that all six crew members were asleep when the hearth broke out, which might have been a violation of Coast Guard guidelines requiring there to be a night watchman on duty.

Fact Aquatics sued in federal court docket underneath a provision in maritime legislation to keep away from payouts to the households of the victims. Members of the family of the lifeless have filed claims in opposition to boat homeowners Glen and Dana Fritzler and the corporate, and have sued the U.S. Coast Guard.

Boylan initially was indicted on 34 counts of misconduct or neglect of ship officer — which the preliminary indictment known as seaman’s manslaughter — in 2020, with every carrying a attainable jail time period of 10 years if he was convicted. Protection legal professionals sought to dismiss these fees as a result of they argued the deaths had been the results of a single incident, and never separate crimes.

Earlier than that concern might be argued in court docket, prosecutors bought a superseding indictment this summer season charging Boylan with just one depend alleging his negligence brought on all 34 deaths. If convicted, he would have confronted a most of 10 years in jail.

However in September, on the third anniversary of the tragedy, U.S. District Choose George Wu mentioned that indictment didn’t point out gross negligence, which he mentioned was a required aspect to show the crime of seaman’s manslaughter.

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