Teacher among dead in dive boat fire

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Teacher among dead in dive boat fire

PHOTO BY SUKH17/WIKIMEDIA COMMON

PHOTO BY SUKH17/WIKIMEDIA COMMON

PHOTO BY SUKH17/WIKIMEDIA COMMON

By Kyle Martin & Keith Burbank, BAY CITY NEWS SERVICE

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A teacher at American High School in Fremont died in a boat fire early on Labor Day off the coast of Santa Barbara County, Fremont Unified School District officials said on Twitter Tuesday.
Dead is Raymond (Scott) Chan, who was a physics teacher. The fire also claimed the life of his daughter and 32 others. Many who died are from Santa Cruz, San Jose and the Bay Area, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said during a news conference Tuesday.
Fremont Unified School District officials said in their tweet, “We send our condolences to Mr. Chan’s family and the American High School community.”
One of Chan’s students was a 2019 U.S. Physics Olympiad qualifier. Students who make the U.S. team compete in an international physics competition.
The remains of 20 victims, including some from the Bay Area, were recovered during underwater searches around the wreckage of the commercial boat that caught fire on Labor Day, authorities said Tuesday.
Search teams with the U.S. Coast Guard, National Park Service and sheriff’s offices from Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo counties aided in recovering the bodies of 11 females and nine males, Brown said.
The Coast Guard responded to the fire aboard the 75-foot boat named “Conception” based out of Santa Barbara while it was ablaze at about 3:30 a.m. Monday near Santa Cruz Island, according to Brown’s office. The boat sank by about 7:20 a.m.
Five survivors were rescued from the boat, which had carried 39 people.
Efforts were scheduled for Tuesday to stabilize the boat so that divers could safely enter it, search it and recover additional victims.
Brown said, “There were several other victims that were seen by the divers, somewhere between four and six, that are still within the wreckage, but due to the positioning of the boat they were unable to be recovered before nightfall” (Monday).
Divers also identified a search field of about a half-mile in size, and were planning to that area near the boat.
Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester said her office suspended its search and rescue efforts at about 9:40 a.m. Tuesday.
“We have suspended the search efforts due to no additional individuals having been witnessed entering the water,” Rochester said. No additional signs of distress or debris were witnessed during a flight over the area Tuesday morning, she said.
Rochester said the Coast Guard conducted seven missions with three helicopter crews to search a 160-mile area around the wreckage.
Another victim, Kristina Finstad, is said to be from Santa Cruz, according to the city of Santa Cruz.
“The horrific incident is being felt deeply by our community,” Santa Cruz Mayor Martine Watkins said in a statement. “We are in disbelief at what has happened and our hearts go out to the families of all of those who are waiting for news on their loved ones.”
Finstad is a former Santa Cruz city employee who worked in its Water Department from 2005 to 2015.
Some victims on board were students and parents of Pacific Collegiate School, a charter school in Santa Cruz.
“While this was not a school sponsored trip, our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the victims and those yet missing, particularly those of our students and parents on board,” the school said in a statement on its website.
The school said it is working with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and county mental health services to provide support and resources to students and staff.
Officials had contacted the families of 30 victims as of Tuesday, but were still waiting to hear from four families.