Ship captain found guilty of ‘seaman’s manslaughter’ that killed 34
Updated Nov. 6, 9:30 p.m.
A federal jury at a Los Angeles court on Monday found the captain of a dive boat criminally negligent for the deaths of 34 people during a chartered trip in 2019.
Jerry Boylan, 69, was captain of the Conception the night it was engulfed in flames off the southern California coast. The fire killed all of the passengers and one crew member aboard.
The jury found Boylan guilty of one count of "misconduct or neglect of ship officer," more commonly known as “seaman’s manslaughter.” The 19th century law was meant to prevent deaths from fires on steamboats.
U.S. attorneys say he failed to employ a night patrol that could have averted the disaster — one of the worst maritime disasters in California's history.
Kristy Finstad, who was killed in the fire, co-owned the Santa Cruz-based Worldwide Diving Adventures. She had chartered the Conception out of Santa Barbara and was leading the diving trip.
“She was literally living her dream,” said Brett Harmeling, Finstad’s brother, in a 2019 interview with KAZU shortly after the disaster. “Kristy was meant to do exactly what she was doing while she was here.”
In the hours following the trial, Harmeling said he felt little solace from the guilty verdict.
"None of it matters. She's not here. There's no coming back," he said, "The fact that it could have been prevented is the thing that's the hardest thing to live with."
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 8. Boylan faces up to 10 years in prison.