A California dive boat captain has pleaded not guilty to new manslaughter charges related to the 2019 fire that killed 34 people who were trapped below deck.
Captain Jerry Boylan pleaded not guilty on Thursday, for the second time, to one count of misconduct or neglect of ship officer – otherwise known as “seaman’s manslaughter.” His original case in connection with the disaster was previously tossed, until a grand jury returned a new indictment last month.
Boylan, 68, faces up to 10 years behind bars if convicted.
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The boat captain was charged in connection with the Sept. 2, 2019, fire aboard the Conception, which was located off the Southern California coast at the time.
Boylan and a handful of crew members awoke to find the boat on fire, officials said. He allegedly radioed for help before being the first person to flee overboard. He then ordered his crew members to do so instead of trying to extinguish the blaze, the indictment alleges.
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One crew member and all 33 passengers were trapped inside the vessel’s bunk room and died.
Prosecutors have accused him of neglecting to take several preventative measures, such as training his boat crew, enlisting someone to watch the boat overnight and practicing fire drills.
The cause of the fire was never determined.
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The original indictment against Boylan was dropped because prosecutors failed to include details of gross negligence, which were necessary to prove the alleged crime.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.