Stephanio Dazzio and Brian Mary | Associated Press
Los Angeles — The captain of a scuba diving boat, which burned and sank off the California coast and killed 34 people, pleaded not guilty of manslaughter on Tuesday.
Jerry Boylan was arraigned by a federal court in Los Angeles for 34 manslaughter charges. Each count can be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Boylan did not comply with safety regulations before the fire broke out at the September 2, 2019 conception, leading to one of the most deadly maritime disasters in US history these days.
Boylan was accused of “illegal activity, negligence and carelessness” for failing to train crew members, conduct fire drills and monitor night police on boats when a fire broke out.
Boylan, 67, was charged in December and surrendered for a reservation on Tuesday morning. He was detained and appeared in court with a video wearing a blue surgical mask. He was later scheduled to be released on a $ 250,000 bond.
A rare federal accusation against Boylan was filed under pre-Civil War law aimed at holding the captain and crew of a steamship accountable for the much more frequent maritime disasters of the time.
After the captain made a panicked Mayday call, Boylan and the other four crew members were all asleep, but escaped from the fiery boat.
Boylan spoke very little during a short hearing and answered the question of Magistrate Judge Jean Rosen Bruce with a short answer, “not guilty.”
All 33 passengers and one crew member died in the bankroom under the deck, leading to speculation that some were trying to escape in shoes. Officials said they were trapped in the only exit, the stairwell and the flames blocking the small hatch. Coroners reported that everyone inhaled smoke and died.
The family of Charles McIlvain and Justin Dignam, among other relatives, watched the minutes on video from another court. Some families were listening on the phone. Rosen Bruce apologized for not being able to be in the same court, but said she acknowledged their existence at a hearing.
“We are here today to honor his memory and represent the families of all 34 victims,” Kathleen McKilvan said outside the courtroom after a brief hearing. “I hope this is the beginning of a journey to find justice for our loved ones.”
Federal safety investigators have accused shipowner Truth Aquatics Inc. of lack of surveillance, even though they have not been charged with crime.
Truth Aquatics has filed a proceeding in federal court under the provisions of the Maritime Law to avoid paying the victim’s family. The family of 32 victims filed a claim against boat owners Glenn and Dana Fritzlar and the company.