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Captain of boat which burned in Channel Islands, killing 34 people pleads not guilty to new charge

Ventura County Fire Department
The remains of the dive boat conception after a 2019 fire in the Channel Islands which killed 34 people. All of the victims were trapped below deck by the fire.

Conception Captain Jerry Boylan facing federal count of misconduct or neglect for 2019 tragedy.

The captain of a dive boat which caught on fire in the Channel Islands and killed 34 people entered not guilty pleas in federal court to misconduct, or neglect for his role in the tragedy.

A federal grand jury indicted Captain Jerry Boylan for gross negligence for the September, 2019 tragedy on board the Santa Barbara based dive boat “Conception.”

An early morning blaze trapped all 33 passengers, as well as a crew member below deck. Federal investigators were unable to determine the exact caused of the fire, but think it was caused by an electrical short. They say a major factor in the disaster was the lack of a patrol which might have detected the blaze earlier.

A federal court judge threw out the original case against Boylan last year. Federal prosecutors pursued a modified charge, which could result in prison time if the captain is convicted of misconduct, or neglect.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.