This past Labor Day weekend, the country was shocked to learn of a tragic boat accident off the coast of California. The Conception, one of three dive boats owned by a long running, well respected dive boat operation out of Santa Barbara, had caught fire in the middle of the night killing 33 passengers and one crew off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. The fire occurred on the morning of September 2nd, the last day of a three-day dive trip to the Northern Channel Islands.
Here in California, the dive community was shaken, as many knew one or more of the victims, had dove on the Truth Aquatics’ boats in the past, or just felt the huge loss, despair, confusion and frustration that was coursing through this tight knit group of divers.
Out of the 34 souls lost on the Conception, six of those were a part of the Reef Check California family. We want to honor those we have lost with as much love and respect as we can offer. Please feel free to reach out to any of our staff or fellow Reef Checkers if you need to talk about anything relating to this tragedy. It is together that we can heal. And it is through sharing our stories, photos, tears and laughter that we can remember those who we have lost. Our hearts go out to all those wonderful people who lost their lives on that fateful trip and to all their friends and families. We will never forget.
Left: Kendra Chan
Right: Kendra’s first survey at Seal Rock. She is pictured standing behind “Reef Check”
Kendra became a Reef Check volunteer earlier this year and was trained in Santa Barbara. She was on the Conception with her father, Scott Chan. Kendra was a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura. She lived in Oxnard and grew up diving in the Channel Islands with her father. She loved skiing, hiking, camping and, of course, diving.
Left: Kristy Finstad
Right: Kristy Finstad joined by sailing friends, her husband, and Reef Check buddies, Megan Wehrenberg and Jonah Mulski
Kristy worked with Reef Check when the California program first began and recruited some of our very first volunteers. Kristy and her husband, Dan Chua, had recently returned from a multiyear sailing trip through the Pacific. In a blog, she chronicled the beauty and monotony of life on the ocean, “her colors changing, her energy moody with moon tide currents, thundering waves and glassy reflection.” She and her family ran Worldwide Diving Adventures, and many of our Reef Check family had joined them for dive trips to several locations throughout the years.
Left: Marybeth Guiney
Right: Marybeth Guiney and Jasmine Lord
Marybeth started Reef Checking three years ago when she joined the Malibu Divers class with Jasmine Lord. She loved the ocean and participated in ocean conservation groups such as Heal the Bay and Sea Shepherd. She was an avid scuba diver and world traveler. Originally from Boston, she moved to California several years ago for work and lived in Santa Monica in the same building as Jasmine and Jasmine’s husband, Charles “Chuck” McIlvain. The trio became close and would often go on dive trips together. Marybeth and Chuck went together for the three-day Labor Day trip onboard the Conception.
Charles “Chuck” McIlvain
Left: Charles McIlvain and Jasmine Lord
Marybeth Guiney and Charles McIlvain on a recent dive trip together
Chuck was a Reef Check supporter and husband of Reef Check volunteer, Jasmine Lord. A Santa Monica resident, he was a visual effects designer who had worked at Netflix, Walt Disney Co. and Sony Pictures Imageworks. He loved snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, and had added scuba diving to his list of outdoor activities just a few years ago. He was with his friend and neighbor, Marybeth Guiney, onboard the Conception that weekend.
Left: Yuko Hatano
Liz Monks, Yuko Hatano and Vince Christian on a Reef Check dive at Monastery Beach
Yuko had been with Reef Check since 2010, mostly diving in the central coast but went on many trips to the Channel Islands. She lived in San Jose and loved diving and the ocean. A lovely tribute to Yuko can be found here.
Left: Allie Kurtz sailing near Santa Barbara
Allie Kurtz and Rob McClelland (in center) during Reef Check training this year. Also pictured are Ellie Yang, Claire Brown and Chris Honeyman.
Allie and her boyfriend, Rob McClelland, trained with Reef Check this past spring, becoming class favorites among their peers and instructors for their excitement and enthusiasm for Reef Check and diving. Soon after the training, Allie left her job, moved to Santa Barbara with Rob, and joined the crew at Truth Aquatics to begin a career in the dive industry. Before pursuing her love of diving full time, Allie worked at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles on the creative advertising team. In honor of Allie and her passion for the ocean, Paramount has created a memorial fund where all proceeds go to Reef Check Foundation. To find out more or to donate, go to the “In Memory of Allie Kurtz” page here.