THE CAPTAIN of the scuba diving boat where 34 people lost their lives in a fire off the coast of California has been charged with multiple counts of seaman’s manslaughter.
In the early hours of September 2nd, 2019, lithium batteries aboard the ‘Conception’ caught fire as the ship was sailing in Platt’s Harbour, west of Santa Barbara. Thirty-four passengers and crew members lost their lives as they slept below deck, while five survivors managed to jump off-board and swim to a nearby vessel. The ship had been taking passengers on a scuba diving expedition during Labour Day weekend at the time of the fire.
The survivors included captain Jerry Nehl Boylan, who is now facing federal charges of seaman’s manslaughter. The indictment states that the 67-year-old caused the tragedy ‘by his misconduct, negligence, and inattention to his duties’. Prosecutors say he failed to assign a night watchman or to give his crew sufficient training or fire drills as required by law. Each of his 34 counts of manslaughter could lead to 10 years in federal prison.
Kirsti Johnson, of the FBI’s Los Angeles bureau, said that ‘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’. She added that ‘our hope is that this indictment leads to the prevention of boating accidents and the senseless destruction of lives through proper precautions and training’.
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