The captain of a dive boat that caught fire last year off the coast of Santa Barbara, Ca., was indicted on 34 counts of negligent manslaughter, NPR reports. Thirty-three passengers and one crew member died during the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2019, when a fast moving fire broke out on the 75-foot Conception. The boat was docked off Santa Cruz Island for a chartered three-day diving trip. The captain, Jerry Boylan, 67, and four other crew members escaped the blaze. He is charged with seaman’s manslaughter, which refers to misconduct or negligence in deaths involving vessels on U.S. waters.
Prosecutors say Boylan’s misconduct, negligence and failure to “follow well-established safety rules” caused the deaths of 34 people. “A pleasant holiday dive trip turned into a hellish nightmare as passengers and one crew member found themselves trapped in a fiery bunk room with no means of escape,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. Prosecutors allege that Boylan failed to have a night watch or roving patrol on the boat, neglected to conduct sufficient fire drills and failed to conduct sufficient crew training. The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the boat’s owners, Truth Aquatics Inc. Investigators said the fast-moving fire and subsequent sinking of the Conception made it impossible to pinpoint the exact cause. They said the blaze started on the aft deck, where passengers were recharging smartphones and other devices containing lithium-ion batteries.