Authorities on Friday released the names of some of the 34 victims killed in a Labor Day dive boat fire near Santa Cruz Island, revealing they all likely died from smoke inhalation.
After nine names were released by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown at a morning news conference, officials later said 23 or the 33 victims recovered have been positively identified, and all but one of their families had been notified.
The 22 victims were identified as:
- Carol Diana Adamic, 60, of Santa Cruz
- Tia Salika-Adamic, 17, of Santa Cruz
- Neal Gustav Baltz, 42, of Phoenix, Arizona
- Patricia Ann Beitzinger, 48, of Chandler, Arizona
- Vaidehi Campbell, 41, of Felton
- Kendra Chan, 26, of Oxnard
- Raymond "Scott"Chan, 59, of Los Altos
- Andrew Fritz, 40, of Sacramento
- Daniel Garcia, 46, of Berkeley
- Justin Carroll Dignam, 58, of Anaheim
- Marybeth Guiney, 51, of Santa Monica
- Yulia Krashennaya, 40, of Berkeley
- Alexandra Kurtz, 26, of Santa Barbara
- Charles McIlvain, 44, of Santa Monica
- Caroline McLaughlin, 35, of Oakland
- Angela Rose Quitasol, 28, of Stockton
- Evan Michel Quitasol, 37, of Stockton
- Nicole Storm Quitasol, 31, of Imperial Beach
- Michael Quitasol, 62, of Stockton
- Steven Salika, 55, of Santa Cruz
- Ted Strom, 62, of Germantown, Tennessee
- Wei Tan, 26, of Goleta
The cause of death was likely smoke inhalation, although the sheriff — who is also the county coroner — indicated traditional autopsies were not performed on the deceased. Instead, the office is relying mainly on external examinations and toxicology tests.
“Our pathologist is convinced, without having to conduct autopsies, that these victims were victims of smoke inhalation," Brown said. “That is likely going to be the primary cause of death.”
Divers have recovered the bodies of 33 of the 34 victims who were killed when intense flames swept through the vessel Conception around 3:15 a.m. Monday, trapping dozens as they slept below deck.
The only survivors were five crew members who were awake on the main deck, and said they attempted a rescue before jumping overboard.
Kurtz, who was asleep below deck, was the only crew member to die in the fire; thirty-three were passengers, officials said.
DNA analysis has been used to identify every victim because of the varying degrees of burns caused by the intense flames, according to the sheriff.
Brown noted the initial difficulty in locating the families of the victims, as the manifest only listed the passenger names. "No other supporting documentation or details immediately available," he said.
Within days, however, officials were able to connect with family members of everyone on board, including those who lived internationally. One was a mother from Japan, another relative was contacted in Singapore and a family flew in to Santa Barbara from India.
Brown said the Sheriff's Office would release the names of additional victims as they notified their next of kin, explaining there was some difficulty in the process due to relatives being scattered around the state, country and world.
"Typically these are notifications we don’t like to make over a telephone call. This is information that we would like to address families face to face and follow up with questions," Brown said.
Meanwhile, divers returned to the water on Friday, where they were working to recover the body of the remaining victim and gather more evidence for the ongoing investigation.
A salvage operation was also underway to recover the Conception, which sank in water about 60 feet deep. Once the boat is moved, divers will be able to comb through an area that was previously inaccessible to them.
Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are also on scene, and their primary focus will be to determine the origin and cause of the fire.
Among the things being examined as the potential ignition source were electronics on board.
Investigators are aware of photography equipment, batteries and other devices that were plugged in and stored on the vessel, according to Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board.
But as far the cause goes, nothing has been ruled out, she emphasized on Thursday.