Captain of Doomed Dive Boat Found Guilty in Tragic 2019 Incident

In a heart-wrenching incident that left 34 people dead, the captain of the ill-fated Conception dive boat, which caught fire and sank off the California coast in 2019, has been found guilty of negligence in a US court.

The tragedy sent shockwaves through the nation, highlighting the importance of accountability and safety in maritime operations. This blog post delves into the details of the incident and the legal ramifications that have followed.

The Conception Tragedy

On a Labor Day holiday weekend dive trip in 2019, a catastrophic fire broke out while guests and crew were asleep below deck on the Conception, a 75-foot wood-and-fiberglass boat anchored off Santa Cruz Island. The fire swiftly engulfed the vessel, resulting in the tragic loss of 33 passengers and one crew member. Only five crew members, including the captain, Jerry Boylan, managed to escape.

This devastating incident marked one of the worst maritime accidents in recent US history. The fire was so intense that firefighters could not board the vessel in time to prevent it from sinking.

The Verdict

Federal prosecutors announced on Monday that Jerry Boylan, the Conception’s captain, was found guilty by a jury of one count of misconduct, often referred to as “seaman’s manslaughter.” This conviction carries a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years. United States Attorney Martin Estrada described Boylan’s actions as “unpardonable cowardice” and emphasized that this tragedy could have been averted had Boylan fulfilled his duties as captain.

During the trial, evidence emerged highlighting a series of failures on Boylan’s part, including abandoning the ship and neglecting to maintain a night watch. These failures ultimately contributed to the loss of 34 lives.

The Legal Implications

Boylan’s conviction falls under a relatively uncommon criminal provision specific to seamen and individuals in related fields. This legal provision allows for prosecution in cases where negligence results in death. The verdict sends a strong message to those responsible for the safety of passengers on vessels, emphasizing the necessity of proper training, diligence, and life-saving measures to protect those under their care.

Donald Alway, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, stressed the importance of this tragedy serving as a lesson to all who command vessels carrying vulnerable passengers. Safety must always be a top priority, and those in positions of responsibility must be diligent in their duties.


The verdict in the case of the Conception tragedy brings a measure of closure and accountability to a deeply painful and tragic event. It underscores the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of those entrusted to the care of captains and crew members on maritime excursions.

While the pain of the loss will never fully subside, the legal proceedings serve as a reminder that individuals in positions of authority must uphold their responsibilities to protect the lives of those who depend on them. This incident’s legacy should be a commitment to prioritize safety and diligence in maritime operations to prevent such devastating tragedies from recurring in the future.

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