Captain Found Guilty in Deadly Boat Fire

( – In 2019, 69-year-old Jerry Boylan jumped off the boat he was helming as it burned and sank beneath the waves off the coast of Santa Barbara. Despite being the scuba diving vessel’s captain, he opted to save his own life rather than help the 34 souls that were still trapped on board, all of whom perished.

On November 6th, a Los Angeles jury convicted him of criminal negligence after a trial that lasted 10 days. Though Boylan has yet to be sentenced, reports indicate that he could face as much as a decade behind bars.

Tragedy aside, readers who are historically inclined may find it interesting to learn that the one-time captain had initially been charged with “neglect of ship.” The term is typically referred to in legal circles as “seaman’s manslaughter” and was a statute that was implemented before the Civil War began in 1861.

At the time, waterways were clogged with steamboats full of passengers. In addition to the ever-present risk of collision, fires were a very real possibility. Boylan’s charge was originally designed as a means of protection for water-based travelers and was meant to keep captains and crews accountable.

On the morning of September 2nd, 2019, a fire broke out aboard Boylan’s boat, the Conception. The flames were sparked in the wee hours while the expedition’s paying passengers were still below deck in their bunks. According to the jury’s findings, Boylan made little, if any, effort to assist in the unfolding disaster.

His pool of peers found that in addition to abandoning the boat, he was the very first person to jump off. Five members of the crew eventually joined him, though a fifth remained trapped on board and perished with the other passengers.

Beyond the apparent negligence that was involved in abandoning the lives he was responsible for, investigators further determined that Boylan had not been requiring his crew to perform routine roving night watches.

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