By Stephanie Dazio and Eugene Garcia | | The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — A dive boat captain has pleaded not guilty for a second time in federal court to the violent deaths of 34 people trapped under the deck of his burning vessel three years ago off the coast of Southern California.
A federal grand jury issued a new indictment last month alleging that Captain Jerry Boylan was grossly negligent on board the Conception during the worst maritime disaster in recent U.S. history. A judge dismissed the original lawsuit to mark his third anniversary of the Sept. 2, 2019 tragedy.
A trial is scheduled for December 20 in federal district court in Los Angeles.
Boylan faces 10 years in prison if convicted of one count of misconduct or negligence of a seafarer. This is a pre-Civil War law known as “Seaman’s Manslaughter,” designed to hold steamship captains and crews accountable for maritime disasters.
All 33 passengers and crew trapped in Conception’s bunks died.
Boylan, who frantically radioed for help after he and four other crew members sleeping on deck were awakened by the fire, was the first man to go overboard, according to the indictment. I told him to abandon the ship rather than fight the fire.
He trained his crew, conducted fire drills, and is accused of failing to have a patrol watchman on the boat when a fire broke out.
Prosecutors launched the case against Boylan in September after U.S. District Court Judge George Wu dismissed the original indictment for failing to mention gross negligence, a necessary element to prove a crime. filed a second lawsuit.
A subsequent indictment alleges that Boylan “acted with reckless or reckless disregard for human life by engaging in fraud, gross negligence, and neglect of duty.”
Authorities blamed lack of oversight on the ship’s owner, Truth Aquatics Inc., even though federal safety investigators were unable to find the cause of the fire. not prosecuted.
Truth Aquatics is seeking to avoid paying victims’ families under federal maritime law provisions. The family filed a lawsuit against the Fritzlers and company, suing the US Coast Guard.
Families of those who died at sea showed up for Boylan’s arraignment and said they had struggled for three years to seek accountability.
“It’s been a long journey and a very difficult one. Learning to live with grief is very difficult,” said Susana Solano Rosas, who lost her three daughters in the fire. “Today, I hope we can see some justice. … Courts will move forward and bring this man to justice, this captain who allowed 34 of our girlfriends to be killed and burned on board. I will bring it to court.”
Associated Press reporter Brian Melley contributed to this report.
https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/11/10/dive-boat-captain-pleads-not-guilty-in-34-fire-deaths/ Submarine captain pleads not guilty to fire deaths of 34 people