SANTA BARBARA — Only one person remained missing Wednesday after searchers recovered 33 bodies from the charred underwater wreckage of a dive boat that caught fire off the Southern California coast and sank on Labor Day.
Among the victims were an engineer for Apple who went on the trip with his wife and daughter to celebrate the teen’s 17th birthday, a special effects designer for Disney, a nature photographer, a nurse and a physics teacher from Northern California who was with his 26-year-old daughter.
Five crew members, including the captain, managed to escape the Conception after Monday’s pre-dawn fire that engulfed the boat as the victims slept below decks near the island of Santa Cruz during a three-day scuba diving excursion. The vessel eventually sank and overturned, making the recovery of bodies challenging.
The only crewmember to die was 26-year-old Allie Kurtz, who quit her corporate job at Paramount Pictures to work on dive boats and had recently been promoted to deckhand on the Conception.
She was sleeping with the other divers below deck when flames moved quickly through the 75-foot vessel, blocking a stairway and an escape hatch leading to the upper decks.
DNA will be needed to identify the victims. Authorities will use the same rapid analysis tool that identified victims of the deadly wildfire that devastated the Northern California town of Paradise last year, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.
Apple engineer Steve Salika and his wife, Diana Adamic, went on the trip with their daughter Tia Salika to celebrate the teen’s 17th birthday, company senior vice president Deirdre O’Brien told The Mercury News newspaper. Apple colleague, Dan Garcia joined them.
Tia was a student at Pacific Collegiate Charter School, a high-performing school serving grades seven to 12 in Santa Cruz. Also with her was a fellow student Berenice Felipe, according to a letter sent to the school community obtained by NBC News.
O’Brien said in a statement that Salika’s “energy and enthusiasm touched so many people across our company “ during his 30-year career there, and that Garcia “was as passionate about his job at Apple as he was about his love of diving.”