33 bodies removed from sunken California dive boat

Thirty three bodies were recovered from a dive boat that caught fire and sank Monday, while one victim was still missing, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

The count came after officials in Southern California recovered 13 of the bodies Tuesday from the area near Santa Cruz Island where the boat sank, Coast Guard Lt. Zach Farrell, a spokesman for the local, county, state and federal officials assigned to the incident, told the Associated Press.

The boat, a commercial diving vessel called “Conception,” sank Monday after embarking on a three-day recreational scuba diving trip with 39 people aboard. It caught fire at about 3 a.m., eventually sinking and overturning, according to the AP.

Five crew members, including the captain, escaped and swam to an inflatable boat at the stern of the ship. They all survived after steering the vessel to another nearby ship.

Although the bodies still need to be identified using DNA, authorities confirmed to the AP that some of the victims included high school students, a science teacher and his daughter, a family of five and a marine biologist, according to the AP.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told the AP that he had heard anecdotally that the victims ranged from teenagers to people in the 60s.

One woman, Susana Rosas, posted on Facebook Tuesday that her three daughters – Evan, Nicole and Angela Quitasol; their father, Michael Quitasol; and his spouse, Fernisa Sison, were also among the victims.

“Everybody’s devastated. It’s a totally unexpected thing that happened,” Dominic Selga, Sison’s former husband said, according to the AP. “What caused the fire, that’s the big question, that’s what we all want to know.”

Evan Quitasol was a nurse at St. Joseph’s Medical Center of Stockton, where her father and Sison also worked, according to the AP. Nicole Quitasol worked as a bartender, and her sister Angela Quitasol was a middle school science teacher.

A GoFundme to support the family had raised over $8,700 dollars in 18 hours.

Students from the Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz were also on board, as was Scott Chan and his daughter. Chan taught physics at American High School in Freemont, California.

“His students knew him to be an innovative and inspiring teacher who developed a passion for physics among his students,” the Freemont Unified School District said in a statement, the AP reported. “His loss is a tremendous tragedy for our school district.”

Kristy Finstad, a marine biologist and co-owner of Worldwide Diving Adventures in Santa Cruz, was also on board.

An Arizona couple Patricia Beitzinger and Neal Baltz were also victims of the fire, according to KNXV-TV in Phoenix, Arizona.

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