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Dive boat captain sentenced to four years instead of ten for negligence in deadly Conception fire that killed 34 people

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KION-TV) -- The captain of the dive boat Conception that sunk in a deadly fire back in 2019 has been sentenced to four years by a Los Angeles County judge.

In making his decision, District Judge George Wu said he mulled multiple factors in sentencing Jerry Boylan.

There are plans to provide restitution for the families of the 34 people killed in the fire. The judge and attorneys in the case agreed July 11, 2024 as a date for that hearing.

During sentencing, a statement from Boylan was read to family members of the victims.

"I know my words won't change anything. I offer my deepest condolences to everybody affected by the Conception fire. Not an hour goes by without me thinking about you. I wish I could have brought everyone home safe It was my goal and I failed. I'm so sorry."

Prosecutors in the case for the maximum ten year sentence the charge provides but ultimately the judge reduced Boylan's sentence.

The judge is also imposing 3 months of supervised release after the prison time is served.

Jerry Boylan was previously found guilty of one count of misconduct or neglect of ship officer for one of the deadliest maritime disasters in recent history.

The fire happened on September 2, 2019 while the Conception was anchored off the shoreline of Santa Cruz Island near Santa Barbara.

Prosecutors said many of the people who ultimately died in the fire were still alive and in need of assistance to escape when it caught fire. However, they were trapped below deck and were initially asleep when the fire started.

These are the names of the people who died in the dive boat tragedy:

  • Neal Gustav Baltz, 42
  • Patricia Ann Beitzinger, 48
  • Kristy Finstad, 41
  • Evan Michel Quitasol, 37
  • Nicole Storm Quitasol, 31
  • Angela Rose Quitasol, 28
  • Fernisa Sison, 57
  • Michael Quitasol, 62
  • Allie Kurtz, 26
  • Raymond "Scott" Chan, 59
  • Kendra Chan, 26
  • Steven Salika, 55
  • Tia Salika-Adamic, 17
  • Carol Diana Adamic, 60
  • Berenice Felipe Alvarez, 16
  • Charles McIlvain, 44
  • Marybeth Guiney, 51
  • Lisa Fiedler, 52
  • Daniel Garcia, 46
  • Yulia Krashennaya, 40
  • Kristian Takvam, 34
  • Caroline McLaughlin, 35
  • Adrian Dahood-Fritz, 40
  • Andrew Fritz, 40
  • Vaidehi Campbell, 41
  • Kaustubh Nirmal, 33
  • Sanjeeri Deopujari, 31
  • Justin Carroll Dignam, 58
  • Ted Strom, 62
  • Wei Tan, 26
  • Sunil Singh Sandhu, 45
  • Xiang Lin, 45
  • Juha Pekka Ahopelto, 50
  • Yuko Hatano, 39

Federal Prosecutors also said Boylan didn't attempt to fight the fire with an onboard fire extinguisher and didn't post a night watch, which allowed the blaze to spread through the vessel.

Surviving crew members told the National Transportation Safety Board the boat's smoke alarms never went off.

A preliminary report from the NTSB found all six crew members were asleep when the fire started, a violation of Coast Guard rules.

The cause of the fire was never determined despite some speculation it was sparked by overheated lithium ion batteries.

"You were right near a fire extinguisher"

One by one, family members of the 34 people killed in the fire spoke about the grief they've suffered.

Some sharing the promising futures lost as a result of the fire.

A family member of Allie Kurtz described "how excited she was to get her diving certification." Adding "I'm proud to call Allie my big sister and I'm proud of who she was and what she accomplished."

During the hearing, Robert Kurtz brought the ashes of his daughter, Allie, saying she was more than just a crew member of the Conception.

"She loved life and took advantage of every opportunity given to her," Robert said. "We're not supposed to outlive our children... it's been almost 5 years since that horrific event and this did not have to happen, Jerry."

Other family members also took the time to address Jerry Boylan directly. Calling him a "coward" for not attempting to save the boat fire victims.

"You were right near a fire extinguisher," they said. "You were near a fire axe and didn't use it."

The sister of Raymond Chan, who died alongside his daughter Kendra, also directly addressed Boylan.

"My brother and his daughter's lives were cut down by negligence, which is unconscionable to me. Images of the burning Conception are seared into my memory. I would like Mr. Boylan to atone for his reckless negligence."

Marybeth Guiney's brother, Max, said the victims don't get the same opportunities Boylan will see because he's still alive.

"[Marybeth] doesn't get to go to a therapist. She doesn't have those opportunities anymore because of you."

"I hope to never have to think about Jerry Boylan again in my life," said Christina Quitasol. "My entire family is gone forever."

Others took some of the time to give one final message to loved ones.

"You're my biggest bestest sister," said family of Kristy Finstad. "I love you as a friend so much and I can't wait to see you. My thoughts are with you always, sister."

"My daughter's life is worth more than 10 years."

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Victor Guzman

Victor Guzman is the Assistant News Director at KION News Channel 5/46.


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