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California Boat Captain Guilty Over Fire That Killed 34

The captain of a dive boat that caught fire and killed 34 people in California four years ago has been found guilty of negligence.

Jerry Boylan, 69, was convicted of one count of "seaman's manslaughter" after a 10-day trial in Los Angeles.

Prosecutors said the captain failed to have a night watchman or conduct fire drills as required by law.

All 33 passengers and a crew member sleeping below deck died — among the worst maritime disasters in California.

CA Boat Captain Guilty

Jerry Boylan, right, faces up to a decade in prison. Photo by the LA Times.

The fire broke out in the early hours of the morning on September 2, 2019, while the Conception was moored in Platt's Harbour near Santa Cruz Island, south of Santa Barbara.

It was hosting a diving expedition over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Boylan was among five crew members who managed to escape the blaze on the 75-foot (23 m) vessel. They escaped by jumping overboard and swimming to another vessel nearby.

The crew members told investigators at the time that the flames were too intense to save anyone trapped in the passenger quarters.

CA Boat Fire

A memorial for the 34 people who died in the Conception Boat fire. Photo by the LA Times.

"This ship captain's unpardonable cowardice led to the deaths of 34 lives on Labor Day 2019," said United States Attorney Martin Estrada.

"As the jury found, this tragedy could have been avoided had Boylan simply performed the duties he was entrusted to carry out. We hope that today's verdict brings some solace and closure to the victims' loved ones."

Boylan faces a sentence of up to 10 years behind bars and will learn his fate on February 8.

Victims of the tragedy include five members of a Californian family who were celebrating a birthday.

Michael Quitasol, his daughters Evan, Nicole and Angela Quitasol, and his wife, Fernisa Sison, were all on the Conception when the fire broke out.

Other victims include marine biologist Kristy Finstad, physics teacher Scott Chan and his daughter Kendra, and Arizona couple Patricia Beitzinger and Neal Baltz.