Captain jailed for jumping overboard during fire leaving 34 to die trapped below deck

The captain of a California dive boat who jumped overboard rather than put out a fire that killed 34 people has been jailed.

Jerry Boylan was sentenced to four years for criminal negligence over his response after a fire broke out on The Conception in September 2019, killing 33 passengers and one crew trapped below deck.

It was one of the deadliest maritime disasters in the country for years and led to an overhaul of laws and congressional reform. There are several still ongoing lawsuits.

Relatives of the victims have denounced the sentence, saying he should have been jailed for the 10-year maximum allowed.

Robert Kurtz, father of the sole deckhand killed, Alexandra Kurtz, held a small container with him as he spoke to the court. “This is all I have of my daughter,” he said.

After the sentencing, Susana Solano, who lost three of her daughters and their father on the boat, said she was “extremely disappointed”. She said: “It’s just heart-wrenching.”

Boylan, 70, was found guilty of a pre-Civil War statute colloquially known as “seaman’s manslaughter”. It was designed to hold steamboat captains and crew responsible for maritime disasters.

Kathleen and Clark Mcllvain whose son Charlie diedKathleen and Clark Mcllvain whose son Charlie died

Kathleen and Clark Mcllvain whose son Charlie died – RICHARD VOGEL/AP

His lawyers had argued that the real blame lay with Glen Fritzler, who, with his wife, owns Truth Aquatics Inc, which operated The Conception and two other scuba dive boats. They alleged that Mr Fritzler was responsible for failing to train the crew in firefighting and other safety measures.

But that argument was rejected by the court.

The couple have not publicly commented on the fire since an interview with a local TV station a few days afterwards. Their attorneys have not responded to requests for comment from reporters.

Though investigators never found the cause of the fire, which broke out in the early hours, there was speculation that it was sparked by overheated lithium ion batteries.

Reports based on a leaked probe by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives suggested it began in a plastic rubbish bin located on the main deck and then spread rapidly. The blaze blocked the exits for those who were below deck.
A total of 39 people – 33 passengers and six crew members – were aboard the ship. Surviving crew members told the National Transportation Safety Board that the boat’s smoke alarms did not go off.

Barbara Chan whose brother, Scott, and niece, Kendra, were killedBarbara Chan whose brother, Scott, and niece, Kendra, were killed

Barbara Chan whose brother, Scott, and niece, Kendra, were killed – RICHARD VOGEL/ap

During the hearing, Boylan’s lawyer read a statement in which he expressed his condolences and said he had cried every day since the fire.

“I wish I could have brought everyone home safe,” the statement said. “I am so sorry.”

Federal judge George Wu said that when it came to deciding the length of sentence he had taken into account Boylan’s age, health, and the unlikelihood of a recurrence.

He said while Boylan’s behaviour was reckless, the guidelines for sentencing did not warrant a 10-year sentence.

“This is not a situation where the defendant intended to do something bad,” he added.

Boylan is appealing the conviction and is currently out on bail.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top