A family of five celebrating their father’s birthday, a married couple from Arizona and a high school science teacher and his marine biologist daughter are among those confirmed by family members to have been aboard the diving boat that caught fire off the California coast, killing 34 of the 39 onboard.
On Monday, a boat packed with recreational scuba divers caught on fire near the Channel Islands, trapping all 34 people who were sleeping below deck. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed that five crew members who were on the top deck were able to jump off the 75-foot vessel and take a small boat to safety.
As of Wednesday, authorities have recovered 33 of the victims’ bodies and are working on confirming the identities with DNA testing, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office tells TIME.
Authorities have not yet confirmed the cause of the fire. In the meantime, those close to the victims are coming forward and remembering those they lost.
Here is what we know so far about the victims who died in the Conception diving boat fire:
Alexandra “Allie” Kurtz
Allie Kurtz, a 25-year-old native of Cincinnati, is the only crew member that has been confirmed by the family as a victim of the fire. Kurtz’s mother, Cherie McDonough confirmed to local news station FOX 19 that her daughter was aboard the “Conception” when it caught fire.
According to a GoFundMe started to support Kurtz’s father Rob pay for expenses, Allie was his eldest daughter of two.
Rob wrote that his daughter left the movie industry to follow her love of boating and scuba diving and that he was heading to Santa Barbara to provide DNA to authorities so they could identify her and then lay her to rest.
‘It is with a heavy heart that I share a tremendous loss in my life,” her father posted. “Allie had a heart of gold and lived her life on her terms…The only sense of comfort right now is knowing she passed doing what she loved.”
Raymond and Kendra Chan
Los Altos, Calif., residents Raymond “Scott” Chan, 59, and his 26-year-old daughter Kendra were passengers of the Conception at the time of the fire, Fremont Unified School District spokesman confirmed to TIME.
Raymond worked as a physics teacher at American High School in Los Altos, Calif., where he was a “beloved teacher.”
“His students knew him to be an innovative and inspiring teacher who developed a passion for physics among his students,” Fremont Unified School District said in a statement. “His loss is a tremendous tragedy for our school district.”
His daughter Kendra worked as a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Ventura.
In a “Women in Science” video posted by the Wildlife Office, Kendra talked about her love of scuba diving, mentioning her annual trips with her father.
“I love to scuba dive,” she said in the video. “I grew up scuba diving here in the Channel Islands. I would go with my dad every year and I love it.”
Raymond’s wife and Kendra’s mother Vicki Moore told local news station KTVU that she had given authorities a cheek swab of her DNA to be used to identify the victims.
“You don’t expect to have a child that dies before you,” Moore told KTVU. “I cant barely talk about my husband but frankly, it’s even harder when it’s your own child.”
Neal Baltz and Patricia Beitzinger
Phoenix couple Neal Baltz and Patricia Beitzinger was confirmed to have been on the boat by Baltz’s father John.
“They went to heaven doing something they loved together,” Blatz told local news station ABC 15.
Friend Popi Heron remembered the couple on Facebook, calling them “caring and compassionate.”
“I am heartbroken by the loss of my friends Patricia Beitzinger and Neal Baltz who perished in the #Conception boat fire on Monday,” she posted. “They were caring and passionate people who brought joy and laughter to the world. They will be missed.”
Santa Cruz, Calif., native Kristy Finstad has been confirmed as a passenger aboard the Conception by family members.
Finstad’s brother, Brett Harmeling tells TIME that right now the family is grieving and taking the time to “accept the loss” and are “doing the best we can considering the situation.”
Harmeling says he will remember his sister most for her sense of adventure and passion for nature.
“Diving was her life,” he says. “Adventure and travel––she had a passion for connecting with nature. She was just such a powerful strong vibrant woman and just because she’s not here physically doesn’t mean that her light will stop shining.”
A marine biologist, Finstad worked as a diving instructor and ran Worldwide Diving Adventures, a scuba diving center based in Santa Cruz with her husband Dan.
According to her bio on the site, her first dives were as a toddler under her father’s arms in the Channel Islands.
“My mission is to inspire an appreciation for our underwater world. I feel incredibly fortunate to be in the service of helping people invest in experiences of a lifetime.” Finstad said in her bio.
Charles Mcllavain has been confirmed by family and friends to have been aboard the boat during the deadly fire.
Marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, posted condolences on its Facebook page.
According to the post, Mcllavain was the organization’s photographer, Jasmine Lord’s husband.
“Sea Shepherd is one big family and when one of our own suffers from a tragic loss each and every one of us agonizes along with them,” they wrote. “Our long-time and valued photographer suffered the loss of her husband and best friend in a tragic accident this weekend. Jasmine, in your time of need, please know that you have an entire family of fellow Sea Shepherd brothers and sisters who are sending you good thoughts and we are here for you for anything you need.”
Jasmine Lord responded, commenting, “Thank you, my dear family. Charlie cherished every one. Thank you for your support.”
The Quitasol family
Stockton, Calif., father Michael Quitasol, his wife Fernisa Sison and his three daughters Nicole, Evan and Angela Quitasol were on the Conception for a birthday diving trip. Susana Rosas, the mother of Nicole, Evan and Angela, confirmed on Facebook that her family were passengers.
“Three of our daughters were on this boat,” she posted on Facebook. “As of now they are still missing. My #1, Evanmichel Solano Quitasol, my #3, NicoleStorm Quitasol and my #4, Angela Rose Quitasol. My girls’ dad Michel Storm Quitasol and stepmom were also on the boat.”
Stepfather Chris Rosas told the Los Angeles Times he remembered his three stepdaughters, calling them “outstanding girls.”
“They’re the most kind, most loving people I’ve ever met and I’m not just saying that because they’re family,” he told the paper. “the way they interacted with anyone they came across, they were wonderful. They were outstanding girls,”
Father Michael and his wife Fernisa both worked at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Central Valley, a spokeswoman confirmed to TIME.
Evan also worked as a nurse at Kaiser Permanente Hospital as well as St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton.
Angela Quitasol worked as a science teacher at Sierra Middle School in Stockton and was a member of the Lincoln Unified Teacher Association union.
A GoFundMe was set up by Nicole’s former co-workers to help mother Susana cover funeral costs. Fundraiser organizer Bynn Andrews posted that Nicole worked at a local pub for years and that “she will be remembered as an adventurous and loving soul.”
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown identified Justin Dignam, 58, of Anaheim, Calif. as one of victims whose remains have been positively identified and next of kin notified.
In a post on Facebook, Dignam’s sister-in-law says he is survived by a wife and two children.
Yulia Krashennaya and Daniel Garcia
Also among those whose remains have been identified and family notified are Berkeley couple Yulia Krashennaya, 40, and Daniel Garcia, 46. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Garcia was an Apple employee, and Krashennaya was employed at tech company SpiraLinks.
35-year-old Caroline McLaughlin was identified by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office on Friday as one of the victims. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, she was employed at Brilliant, a San Fransisco based startup that specialized in teaching science and math skills through interactive programs.
Brilliant’s website lists McLaughlin as a senior software engineer.
Originally from Boston, Marybeth Guiney’s remains were positively identified, according to Sheriff Brown. She was 51, and passionate about marine life, according to her friends on Facebook. She was living in Santa Monica, Calif., and a member of the Malibu Divers, a scuba diving center.
“She was such an inspiration, a voice to help understand and protect sharks, and shared her pictures and stories as she traveled the world,” wrote Guiney’s Facebook friend Charlotte Ann in a post on Tuesday. “She was endlessly energetic, optimistic and always had a smile to share. I just can’t believe it, what a tragedy for so many.”
Dr. Ted Strom, a pathologist from Germantown, Tenn., was identified by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office as one of the victims. He was 62, and affiliated with the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of Tennessee Medical Center, according to U.S. News and World Report.
“The Strom family wants everyone to know that he passed in a place he cherished while doing something he loved,” a spokesperson for the Strom family told News Channel 3 in Memphis.
Wei Tan, 26, was among the victims whose name was released by the sheriff on Friday. According to her Facebook page, she had just graduated from UC Berkeley’s graduate school with a degree in engineering. She was originally from Singapore.
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