‘They went to heaven doing something they loved’
A family of five. A marine biologist from UCSB. Two charter school students. A physics teacher and his daughter. A pair of Apple employees.
These are reportedly just some of the 34 victims of Monday’s boat fire aboard the Conception.
While authorities have not released the identities of the victims, family and friends have taken to social media and local news outlets to share the stories of their fallen loved ones.
Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown spoke with reporters Tuesday and said the youngest victim was 17 and the others were in their 60s. Most of the victims were from the Santa Cruz and San Jose areas.
Kristy Finstad, 41, was the co-owner of Worldwide Diving Adventure, the company that chartered the dive boat Conception for a Labor Day weekend trip. She was a marine biologist and diving instructor.
Her brother, Brett Hameling, posted a message on Facebook Tuesday thanking people for their love and support.
“My family and I truly appreciate it. No final word on my sister Kristy; however, it is likely that she has transitioned to be with the good Lord.”
Ms. Finstad, a native of Wisconsin, graduated from UCSB and planned on returning to school to get a master’s degree. She is remembered for her passion for learning and selflessness.
“If she had a chance, she would have helped anyone but herself get off that boat,” Al Harmeling, her stepfather, told the Sheboygan Press.
Ms. Finstad had extensive diving experience. She dove for black pearls in the French Polynesia Tuamotus Islands, studied damselfish and corrals in the Tahitian Islands, conducted research for the Australian Institute of Marine Science and wrote a restoration guidebook for the California Coastal Commission.
Allie Kurtz was identified by her father, Rob, as the lone crew member who died in the fire Monday morning.
“Allie had a heart of gold, and lived her life on her terms,” Mr. Kurtz wrote on a Go Fund Me page organized by Kathy Clawson. “She left the movie industry to follow her love of boating and scuba diving. The only sense of comfort right now is knowing she passed doing what she loved. I will always love you and will miss you forever! You became the pirate you wanted to be, now sail away.”
The Go Fund Me page had received more than $12,500, well surpassing the goal of $2,000.
Steve Sprulin, of Lodi, shared on Facebook Tuesday that Michael Quitasol, his wife, Fernisa Sison and Mr. Quitasol’s daughters Nicole, Angela and Evan were also aboard the sunken vessel.
Several colleagues praised Mr. Quitasol and Ms. Sison for their mentorship in the medical field.
“So gentle, so kind, and smart,” wrote Connie Carson-Romano. “Sad that they are gone too soon.”
One user wrote that the family was celebrating Mr. Quitasol’s birthday.
Evan Quitasol was a nurse at St. Joseph’s Medical Center of Stockton, where her father and Ms. Sison had worked. Angela was a seventh grade teacher at Sierra Middle School in Stockton, and Nicole lived and worked as a bartender in the San Diego area, according to reports.
“I heard there’s people missing and then to actually put the family to it, that’s even worse,” Julissa Garcia, a cousin of the family, told NBC affiliate KCRA. “They’re outstanding citizens. They’re just beautiful, special, they did everything right.”
The family of Patricia Beitzinger and Neal Baltz, of Arizona, confirmed Tuesday to ABC15 in Phoenix that the couple was on the ship at the time of the blaze.
“They went to heaven doing something they loved together,” said John Baltz, Neal’s father.
Mr. Baltz worked as an engineer for a semiconductor company recently enrolled in an enology program at Yavapi College, a community college in northern Arizona’s wine region, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Mr. Baltz was expected to make a presentation on wines from Washington Tuesday night. Ms. Beirzinger was his longtime girlfriend.
Raymond “Scott” Chan, a Freemont high school teacher, and his 26-year-old daughter, Kendra, both of Los Altos, were also on board.
Mr. Chan, 59, taught physics at American High School in Fremont for the past two years. Ms. Chan was a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura.
“Right now, it’s a combination of just shock and disbelief and some numbness,” Vicki Moore, who was mourning the death of her husband of 35 years and her first born child, told Fox KTVU. “You don’t expect to have a child that dies before you. I can barely talk about my husband, but frankly, it’s harder when it’s your own child.”
Apple employees Steve Salika and Dan Garcia were also reportedly on the vessel, according to Deirdre O’Brien, a senior vice president at Apple.
“It’s with very heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of two of our colleagues in the traffic boat fire that took place Labor Day weekend,” Ms. O’Brien said in a statement to the Mercury News. “We share our deepest condolences with their families and friends.”
Mr. Salika was a senior manager at Apple and was just a month shy of his 30th anniversary at the company. He was with his wife, Diana Adamic, and their daughter Tia.
Tia was reportedly celebrating her 17th birthday on the trip, and the family brought along Tia’s classmate, Berenice Felipe. Both were students at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, according to reports.
The school sent a letter to students, parents and staff Monday night, which read: “Our hearts are with these two PCSB families, and we hope and pray they are found safe.”
Ms. Adamic volunteered at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, and was remembered as compassionate, honest and inclusive. Tia and Berenice also both volunteered at the animal shelter, and Berenice had previously been honored by the school for her work in plant science, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Lisa Fiedler, 52, a hairdresser and photographer from Mill Valley is remembered for her love of nature and diving.
Frequent travel companion Lindy Caldwell paid tribute to Ms. Fielder on Facebook, writing “She loved life, a beautiful soul who has left us too soon.”
Friends and family revealed Marybeth Guiney and Charles McIlvain, both of Santa Monica, were also on board.
Ms. Guiney was praised for her dedicated work to help protect sharks and other sea life.
“She was endlessly energetic, optimistic and always had a smile to share,” one friend wrote. “Just can’t believe it.”
Mr. McIlvain, 44, was a visual effects designer at Sony Pictures Imageworks in Culver City, where he worked for 15 years. He was known for his work on movies such as “Watchmen,” “Spider-Man,” and “Green Lantern.”
“Anyone who knew Charles ‘Chuck’ McIlvain would know how full of life he was, how contagious his laugh and his smile was and what a warm soul he had,” one friend wrote.
As of Wednesday, 33 of the 34 victims aboard the dive boat had been recovered, according to authorities.