Scuba Dive Boat Captain Faces Sentencing for Deadly Fire

California Tragedy Took 34 Lives

A California scuba dive boat captain is scheduled to be sentenced today, Thursday, May 2nd, for his role in a deadly fire that claimed the lives of 34 people in 2019. Captain Jerry Boylan was convicted last year of criminal negligence.

Charges and Appeals

Boylan was found guilty of one count of misconduct or neglect of ship officer, a pre-Civil War era statute known as seaman’s manslaughter. This law holds ship captains and crew accountable for maritime disasters. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, though his defense is seeking probation with house arrest.

Boylan is appealing his conviction, but sentencing will proceed unless the appeal is successful. This sentencing marks the culmination of a nearly five-year legal process that has been met with frustration from the families of the victims.

Reduced Charges and Legal Battles

A grand jury initially indicted Boylan in 2020 on 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter, potentially leading to a 340-year sentence. However, Boylan’s defense argued the deaths stemmed from a single incident, not separate crimes. Prosecutors then issued a superseding indictment with a single count.

In 2022, the superseding indictment was dismissed by U.S. District Judge George Wu due to insufficient evidence of gross negligence on Boylan’s part. Prosecutors were forced to present the case to a grand jury once more.

Allegations of Captain Negligence

The government alleges Boylan failed to follow safety protocols. This included not having a night watchman patrolling the boat and neglecting to properly train the crew in firefighting procedures. These lapses allegedly allowed the fire to spread undetected and unchecked on the 75-foot vessel.