California dive boat captain indicted on multiple counts of manslaughter in connection with fire that left 34 dead

The captain of the Conception dive boat, which went up in flames off the coast of California last year leaving 34 people dead, was indicted on Tuesday on 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter, the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said Tuesday.

According to the indictment, Jerry Nehl Boylan, 67, “was responsible for the safety and security of the vessel, its crew, and its passengers,” the US Attorney’s Office said.

The indictment alleges that Boylan caused the deaths of 34 people “by his misconduct, negligence, and inattention to his duties.”

CNN has reached out to Boylan’s attorneys, but has not heard back.

The Conception had 33 passengers and six crew members on board, prosecutors said. The fire took place September 2, 2019, when the 75-foot dive boat went up in flames while docked near Santa Cruz. Five crew members, including Boylan, were able to escape safely, while 33 passengers and one crew member died while sleeping below the deck, prosecutors said.

The flames might have been sparked by cellphones and batteries left charging overnight — a tragedy could have been prevented by a night watchman, National Transportation Safety Board investigators said in October.

Three safety violations were cited in the indictment, including failing to have a night watch or roving patrol, failing to conduct sufficient fire drills, and failing to conduct sufficient crew training.

“A pleasant holiday dive trip turned into a hellish nightmare as passengers and one crew member found themselves trapped in a fiery bunkroom with no means of escape,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement. “The loss of life that day will forever impact the families of the 34 victims.”

Each charge of seaman’s manslaughter carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said in the announcement. Boylan is expected to self-surrender to federal authorities in the coming weeks.