The bodies of 20 victims have so far been recovered from the wreckage of a boat that caught fire off California’s Channel Islands Monday morning. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office says most of the victims appear to have been from Santa Cruz, San Jose and other parts of the Bay Area.
An unknown number of students and family members from Pacific Collegiate School, a charter school in Santa Cruz are reportedly among the victims. According to a press release, the school is working with mental health services to provide support to their school community.
A total of 39 people were onboard the Conception, a diving boat based out of Santa Barbara.
A company called Worldwide Diving Adventures chartered the boat and advertised the trip. According to their website, the company opened its doors on the Santa Cruz Harbor in the 70s. The Finstad family runs the business.
The brother of Kristy Finstad posted on Facebook that his sister was leading the dive trip. Tuesday morning, Brett Harmeling posted a thank you to everyone for their love and support and said there’s no final word on his sister, a marine biologist.
As the Monterey Bay area community waits for answers, longtime diver Brian Nelson, Marine Operations Coordinator for the Monterey Harbor, says the diving community here is very close.
“I think the hardest part of this is that we are all going to know some of the divers that were on this trip,” says Nelson.
He says now is the time to honor the lives lost, their families and the five crew members that survived.
“Our prayers are with them. I. I. I can't imagine having to go through what they've gone through,” says Nelson.
On Tuesday, Law enforcement officials started stabilizing the boat, which sits under about 65 feet of water on the ocean floor. That’s so divers can recover four to six victims that have been spotted inside the sunken vessel. They are also extending their recovery area in the hopes they will be able to find those still missing.
Congressman Jimmy Panetta released a statement saying family members looking for information about their loved ones are encouraged to call 833-688-5551.
The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation. A team arrived on the scene Tuesday to gather evidence. The team will look into the boat’s safety measures and interview first responders and survivors. Then, they’ll begin to figure out what went wrong.
Updated at 07:00 p.m. PST Tuesday