Sea Captain Jerry Boylan Sentenced for Negligence

May 14, 2024 ·

Photo by Sean Malone

MALIBU—On May 2, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California sent out a press release announcing the sentencing of Sea Captain Jerry Nehl Boylan, 70, of Santa Barbara, who was found guilty of gross negligence in the deaths of 33 passengers and one crew member who died in a horrific fire aboard the P/V Conception at dawn on September 2, 2019.

Captain Boylan was found guilty of gross negligence after he and five crew members were able to escape and survive the fire. He and all but one crew member abandoned the burning boat while the others were asleep below deck. He has been sentenced to 48 months of prison time.

The following information came directly from the press release:

“Boylan, as captain of the Conception, committed a series of failures – including abandoning his ship instead of rescuing passengers – that resulted in the disaster. Such conduct constituted misconduct, gross negligence, and inattention to his duties and led to the deaths of 34 victims, prosecutors argued.

As the ship’s captain, Boylan was responsible for the safety and security of the vessel, its passengers, and its crew. Federal prosecutors argued he failed in his responsibilities in several ways, including by failing to have a night watch or roving patrol, failing to conduct sufficient fire drills and crew training, failing to provide firefighting instructions or directions to crew members after the fire started, failing to use firefighting equipment, including a fire ax and fire extinguisher that were next to him in the wheelhouse, to fight the fire or attempt to rescue trapped passengers, failing to perform any lifesaving or firefighting activities whatsoever at the time of the fire, even though he was uninjured, failing to use the boat’s public address system to warn passengers and crew members about the fire; and, becoming the first crew member to abandon ship even though 33 passengers and one crew member were still alive and trapped below deck in the vessel’s bunkroom and in need of assistance to escape.”

The FBI, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) and Explosives investigated the incident.

Assistant United States Attorneys Mark A. Williams, Matthew W. O’Brien, and Juan M. Rodríguez of the Environmental Crimes and Consumer Protection Section, Brian R. Faerstein, of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, and Alexander P. Robbins of the Criminal Appeals Section prosecuted this case.

The Investigative Service Director for the U.S. Coast Guard made the following statement:

“There are no winners when lives are lost at sea, but there is justice in bringing those accountable to answer for their crimes. Today is an example of that. This was in its truest form, a joint effort by our hard-charging CGIS Special Agents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.”

Christopher Bombardier, the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Los Angeles division offered his deepest sympathy:

“I want to express my deepest condolences to everyone who lost a loved one. No sentencing will ever be sufficient for the suffering you have endured, nor will it bring back your loved ones. I hope this prosecution and sentencing sends a message to other captains that this recklessness is never repeated. I want to thank our National Response Team, which investigated the cause and origin of the fire. Their dedication and skilled expertise provided much-needed answers,” Bombardiere stated.

By Sharon

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