Dive-liveaboard captain jailed for four years

Conception (Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office)
Conception (Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office)

A four-year prison sentence has been handed down to Jerry Boylan, captain of the California dive liveaboard Conception, on which 34 people died when fire broke out onboard in the early hours of 2 September, 2019.

Boylan, 70, will also have to spend a further three years under supervised release, in a decision likely to make dive-boat captains more aware than ever of the implications of failing to observe safety regulations at sea. 

The maximum penalty for the offence of seaman’s manslaughter through gross negligence is a 10-year prison sentence. Seaman’s manslaughter is a pre-Civil War statute created to hold captains and crew accountable for disasters at sea, and Boylan had been found guilty in a jury trial last year. 

In setting the sentence, US District Judge George Wu said he had taken into account Boylan’s age and health, the fact that the danger of a recurrence was remote and the need for punishment and deterrence to avoid such an incident happening again.

The judge said that while Boylan’s behaviour had been reckless, he had not set out to commit a crime. He had found the former captain “incredibly remorseful”, and described the sentencing as one of the most difficult he had undertaken.

Last month he had denied Boylan’s appeal for a retrial, as reported on Divernet.

Ordeal for families

The devastating Conception fire is thought to have begun in a rubbish bin, though the cause has never been proven conclusively, but the incident has led to a number of changes to US maritime regulations.

Boylan was found guilty of failing to set up the required overnight roving patrol on the liveaboard, or to train his crew in procedures to follow in an emergency. Thirty-three guests and a crew-member who had all been sleeping in a single bunk-room below decks were trapped as the fire and smoke spread.

Boylan, who had been asleep with four of his crew, had been the first to abandon the blazing boat, with the prosecution commenting that in so doing he had shown “unpardonable cowardice”. The other four crew had followed him off Conception and also survived.

The protracted five-year proceedings had proved to be an ordeal for the victims’ families. The year after the fire, Boylan had been indicted on 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter, raising the prospect of a potential 340-year prison term.

Conception plaque - captain Jerry Boylan has been sentenced to four years in prison
Conception Memorial Plaque, Santa Barbara

His lawyers had succeeded in reducing this to a single charge with a 10-year tariff, but this was itself overturned in 2022 by Judge Wu, on the grounds that it did not specify that Boylan had acted with gross negligence.

A further hearing then took place before a jury last year, during which Boylan had claimed to have cried every day since the fire and said: “I wish I could have brought everyone home safe, I am so sorry.” 

‘Blaming the boss’

Boylan’s legal team had sought a five-year probationary sentence, with three years to be served under house arrest, but relatives of the divers had pleaded for the judge to impose the full 10-year term.

“While today’s sentence cannot fully heal their wounds, we hope that our efforts to hold this defendant criminally accountable brings some measure of healing to the families,” stated prosecuting lawyer Martin Estrada after the sentencing. Boylan was ordered to surrender on 11 July to begin his jail term. 

During the proceedings, part of Boylan’s defence had been that his employers Glen & Dana Fritzler, who owned the Truth Aquatics fleet of which Conception was part, had not required Coast Guard regulations to be observed on any of their boats. The prosecution had described this defence as “blaming the boss”.

Three days after the fatal fire, the Fritzlers had invoked another pre-Civil War maritime law provision that allowed them to limit their liability to the value of the remains of the boat, which had been a total loss. The same provision had been invoked after the loss of the Titanic.

The couple and their company however remain the object of civil lawsuits by families of the victims, as does the US Coast Guard, which relatives accuse of having failed to enforce its own regulations.

Also on Divernet: Guilty dive-boat captain showed ’unpardonable cowardice’, Conception fire: captain faces fresh charges, Blaze-boat captain pleads innocence, Killer liveaboard blaze began in rubbish bin

Shearwater Peregrine TX Dive Computer Unboxing Review #scuba #shearwater

@dekkerlundquist5938
#ASKMARK Hello Mark, while out diving recently I talked to an experienced diver who was diving with twins but did not have any manifold on them, i.e. each cylinder had a first stage with a primary and an SPG. One cylinder had the low pressure inflator for his BC. What are the pros and cons of a manifold setup versus independent twins?

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.
00:00 Introduction
00:40 What's the point of independent twins?
01:06 Answer

@dekkerlundquist5938
#ASKMARK Hello Mark, while out diving recently I talked to an experienced diver who was diving with twins but did not have any manifold on them, i.e. each cylinder had a first stage with a primary and an SPG. One cylinder had the low pressure inflator for his BC. What are the pros and cons of a manifold setup versus independent twins?

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.
00:00 Introduction
00:40 What's the point of independent twins?
01:06 Answer

YouTube Video UEw2X2VCMS1KYWdWbXFQSGV1YW84WVRHb2pFNkl3WlRSZS44QjI0MDE3MzFCMUVBQTkx

What's The Point of Independent Twins? #askmark

LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH!

Get a weekly roundup of all Divernet news and articles Scuba Mask
We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Connect With Us

0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x