(FreedomBeacon.com)- According to officials, the captain of the Conception dive boat, which caught fire off the coast of California more than three years ago, killing 34 people, will go on trial the following month.
According to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the Central District of California U.S. attorney’s office, Jerry Nehl Boylan, 68, entered a not guilty plea on Thursday to a charge of misbehavior or neglect of a ship officer. After the hearing, he was granted a bond and released.
According to Mrozek, a trial date was scheduled for December.
Thirty-three passengers and one staff member who were stranded below deck aboard the Conception on September 2, 2019, perished in the fire. The tragedy was the most significant marine catastrophe to ever occur in California.
After a federal judge invalidated a prior indictment due to prosecutors using “negligence” rather than “gross negligence” in their presentation to the grand jury, the charge against Boylan was re-indicted in federal court in October.
Federal prosecutors were able to reopen the case after U.S. District Judge George Wu dismissed the initial charge without prejudice in September, but they would now need to prove gross negligence, which is a far higher threshold, to convict the captain.
Careless errors or violations of duty are considered acts of negligence. Contrarily, excessive negligence must be accompanied by a wanton and intentional disregard for the safety or life of others.
Even though the latter standard is applied in common-law manslaughter cases, legal experts claim that the “misconduct of a ship officer” statute, also known as seaman’s manslaughter, only requires prosecutors to demonstrate simple negligence or an omission that violates a standard of care.
According to the new indictment, which also included other allegations of negligent behavior, prosecutors claimed Boylan was in charge of ensuring the safety of the boat and those on board but was negligent in failing to maintain a night watch or roving patrol, hold adequate fire drills and crew training, and give crew members firefighting instructions or directions after the blaze began.
The captain was the first member of the crew to leave the boat while the passengers and a crew member were still alive and confined below deck in the boat’s bunk area. According to prosecution filings, after abandoning ship, he told crew members to follow him “instead of ordering them to fight the fire or engage in other lifesaving activities.”