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Conception Dive Boat Captain Pleads Not Guilty To 'Seaman's Manslaughter' Charges

The 75-foot Conception, based in Santa Barbara Harbor, burns after catching fire early Sept. 2, 2019, anchored off Santa Cruz Island. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department via Getty Images)
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The captain of the Conception dive boat which broke out in a deadly fire in 2019 has pleaded not guilty to nearly three dozen federal charges. Federal prosecutors say he failed to properly train his crew on fire safety, and did not post a roving night watch.

Jerry Boylan surrendered to authorities before his first appearance in federal court in downtown Los Angeles this afternoon, but was released on $250,000 bond.

Boylan was first indicted in December on what's known as "seaman's manslaughter." The Conception incident one of the deadliest maritime disasters in modern American history, killing 33 passengers and one crew member on board.

The unusual charges against the captain were based on laws put in place before the Civil War, to hold captains accountable during a time when ship sinkings and accidents were far more common.

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Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board found that if just one crew member had been awake when the fire first broke out, that the tragedy could have prevented.

Boylan's trial is set to begin on March 30th; if convicted, each of the three charges carries up to ten years in prison.

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