Marine Biologist is First Victim Identified in Dive Boat Tragedy

The Conception took off Saturday morning and was scheduled to return on Tuesday morning.

What to Know

  • Authorities received a distress call from the burning boat early Monday morning.
  • The boat was on fire just north of Santa Cruz Island, off the Ventura County coast.
  • Santa Cruz Island is the largest in the Channel Islands chain off Southern California.

A 41-year-old marine biologist was the first victim to be identified of a tragic fire aboard a commercial diving boat off Santa Cruz Island.

Kristy Finstad, a diving enthusiast who was leading the dive trip aboard the Conception, was identified on Facebook by her brother Brett Harmeling of Houston.

She was among the 39 people aboard the boat anchored off Santa Cruz Island on Monday when it caught fire.

Thirty four people are confirmed dead. Five crew members jumped off the burning ship and were evacuated aboard a good Samaritan pleasure craft named Grape Escape. One is believed to be the captain. One crew member suffered non life-threatening injuries.

Harmeling asked for prayers in a Facebook post.

"Thank You ALL for your unconditional love and support during this incredibly tragic time," he wrote. "My family and I truly appreciate it. "No final word on my sister Kristy; however, it is likely she has transitioned to be with the good Lord."

The victims received an outpouring of support on Twitter.

"My heart breaks for those onboard the Conception," Tweeted actor Rob Lowe. "An unspeakable horror on a boat I've been on many times. My prayers and thoughts are with the families."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted:

"Our hearts are with the families and loved ones affected by this tragic incident. As we wait to hear more, we are eternally grateful for our heroic first responders that are on site — working to ensure every individual is found."

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