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Prosecutors seek compensation for families of 34 people who died in 2019 California dive boat fire – Winnipeg Free Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Prosecutors are seeking compensation for the families of 34 people who died in a 2019 dive boat fire that was the deadliest maritime accident in recent U.S. history.

A judge will set the amount Thursday during a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles. The proceedings come nearly five years after the Sept. 2, 2019, tragedy off the coast of central California that prompted changes to maritime laws, congressional reform and several ongoing civil lawsuits.

The Conception’s captain, Jerry Boylan, was convicted last year of one count of misconduct or negligence by a ship’s officer after a 10-day trial in federal court in downtown Los Angeles. The charge stems from a pre-Civil War law, commonly known as seaman’s murder, that sought to hold steamboat captains and crew accountable for maritime disasters.

FILE – A collage of photos of victims of the Sept. 2, 2019, fire aboard the Conception dive boat on Santa Cruz Island is held by a family member in federal court in Los Angeles, Oct. 25, 2023. Prosecutors are seeking compensation for the families of 34 people who died in the fire, which was the deadliest maritime disaster in recent U.S. history. A judge will set the amount Thursday, July 11, 2024, during a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

He was sentenced to four years in prison and three years of supervised release. He was released on bail and must report to the Bureau of Prisons by Aug. 8. His appeal is pending.

The Conception was anchored off Santa Cruz Island, 25 miles south of Santa Barbara. It caught fire before dawn on the last day of a three-day expedition and sank less than 100 feet from shore.

Thirty-three passengers and a crew member died, trapped in a bunk below decks. The dead included a sailor who had landed his dream job; an environmental scientist who had been conducting research in Antarctica; a globetrotting couple; a Singaporean data scientist; and a family of three sisters, their father, and his wife.

Boylan was the first to abandon ship and jumped overboard. Four crew members who joined him also survived.

Although the exact cause of the fire remains undetermined, prosecutors blamed Boylan for failing to post a required night watch and never properly training his crew on firefighting. The lack of a watch meant the fire could have spread undetected throughout the 75-foot (23-meter) boat.