All 39 people aboard the dive boat Conception were asleep when a fire broke out in the early morning hours of Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, while the boat was moored off the shore of Santa Cruz, the largest of the islands in Channel Islands National Park. That fire would eventually cause the boat to sink and take the lives of 33 passengers and one crew member; five crew members escaped to safety after failed attempts to reach those trapped below.
The remains of all 34 victims have been recovered and the full list of victims’ names was released last week. Those were identified as:
• Carol Adamic, 60, Santa Cruz
• Steve Salika, 55, Santa Cruz
• Tia Salika, 17, Santa Cruz
• Juha Pekka Ahopelto, 50, Sunnyvale
• Neal Baltz, Phoenix
• Patricia Beitzinger, Phoenix
• Vaidehi Campbell Williams, 41, Felton
• Raymond Scott Chan, Los Altos
• Kendra Chan, Oxnard
• Adrian Dahood-Fritz, 40, Sacramento
• Andrew Fritz, Sacramento
• Justin Dignam, 58, Anaheim
• Berenice Felipe, 16, Santa Cruz
• Lisa Fiedler, 52, Mill Valley
• Kristina “Kristy” Finstad, 41, Tamrick Pines
• Dan Garcia, Berkeley
•Yulia Krashennaya, 40, Berkeley
• Marybeth Guiney, 51, Santa Monica
• Yuko Hatano, 39, San Jose
• Alexandra “Allie” Kurtz, 26, Santa Barbara
• Xiang Lin, 45, Fremont
• Caroline McLaughlin, 35, Oakland
• Charles McIlvain, 44, Santa Monica
• Kaustubh Nirmal, 33, Stamford, Connecticut
• Sanjeeri DeoPujari, 31, Stamford, Connecticut
• Angela Rose Quitasol, 28, Stockton
• Evan Michel Quitasol, 37, Stockton
• Nicole Storm Quitasol, 31, Imperial Beach
• Michael Quitasol, 62, Stockton
• Fernisa Sison, 57, Stockton
• Sumil Sandhu, 45, Half Moon Bay
• Ted Strom, 62, Germantown, Tennessee
• Kristian Takvam, 34, San Francisco
• Wei Tan, 26, Goleta
On Thursday, Sept. 12, the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on its investigation into the deadly incident; part of that report detailed the situation on the boat just before the fire was reported at 3:14 a.m. that morning.
“At the time of the fire, five crewmembers were asleep in berths behind the wheelhouse, and one crewmember was asleep in the bunkroom, which was accessed from the salon down a ladderwell in the forward, starboard corner of the compartment,” the report stated. “The bunkroom had an emergency escape hatch located on the aft end, which also exited to the salon. There were two, locally-sounding smoke detectors in the overhead of the bunkroom.”
The report also detailed a sobering account from crew members about their attempts to enter the below-deck area, separated from the top deck by fire. The captain of the boat radioed an emergency message to the Coast Guard as crew members attempted to alert passengers below.
“The crewmembers attempted to access the salon and passengers below,” the NTSB report stated. “Unable to use the aft ladder, which was on fire, the crewmembers jumped down to the main deck (one crewmember broke his leg in the process) and tried to access the salon and galley compartment, which was fully engulfed by fire at the aft end and by thick smoke in the forward end, through a forward window. Unable to open the window and overwhelmed by smoke, the crew jumped overboard.”
From there, crew members were able to board a skiff and reach a nearby vessel to call for emergency help.
The same day that report was released, authorities succeeded in raising the remains of the vessel from the ocean floor, where it sunk in 60 feet of water, and transported it to an “undisclosed, secure location for further investigation,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said during a press conference, according to multiple news agencies.
The investigation remained ongoing.