Photo: Destroyed Conception dive boat | Ventura County Fire Department
Written By: Robert L. McCullough
October 19, 2022 – Santa Barbara, Ca. The early morning hours of September 2, 2019 during which the 75-foot Conception dive boat burst into flames and killed 34 people remains one of the most horrific episodes in the annals of Santa Barbara maritime history.
That history was dramatically brought back to current headline attention with the October 18th federal grand jury indictment of the doomed vessel’s captain, 68-year-old Jerry Nehl Boylan, on charges of maritime misconduct. According to the indictment of U.S. District Court, it’s alleged that Boylan “acted with a wanton or reckless disregard for human life by engaging in misconduct, gross negligence, and inattention to his duties” on the fateful night when the boat burst into flames and trapped four 33 passengers and one crew member below decks.
All victims were unable to make their way past raging flames believed to have been ignited by defective electrical wiring and died from smoke inhalation. Escape routes out of the inferno were engulfed in flames by the time the victims were aware of the danger. According to the indictment, Boylan “was responsible for the safety and security of the vessel, its crew, and its passengers” and he failed that responsibility in a number of ways, including “becoming the first crewmember to abandon ship” while aware of the danger to his passengers.
The charges faced by Boylan carry a potential sentence of 10 years in federal prison.