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A love of the sea and a community bond, honoring the victims of the Conception dive boat tragedy

A love of the sea and a community bond, honoring the victims of the Conception dive boat tragedy

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A somber week in Santa Barbara culminating with a vigil Friday night at Chase Palm Park, as the community comes together to grieve and heal.

Hundreds of mourners congregated to honor the 34 lives lost in the Conception dive boat tragedy, where a love of the sea and a community bond is a major aspect of the healing process. 

34 lights and dive tanks lined the steps at Chase Palm Park, each representing a life lost at sea.

“These lights on stage will forever shine deep within our hearts and may they now lead us into the solace we all now seek,” said Don Barthelmess, Santa Barbara Dive Instructor. 

Those close to the Conception crew say the diving community in Santa Barbara has no borders. 

“Nothing in our history surpasses this. We as a community are not alone. We know how to begin this long and difficult process,” said Barthelmess

Those paying their respects say with events like this and the Montectio Mudslide, the Santa Barbara community feels connected through the tragedy.

“Here in the solidarity of silent community witness, we stand again at the rim of the sea and reach together for healing grace,” said Very Rev. Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, a Chaplain to first responders. 

Faith leaders say the salt in our tears is one with the salt in the sea.

“The loss of a beloved boat, shocking disruption to friendships that feel like family, a devastating incident that is the exact opposite of what the adventure is meant to be,” said Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe, Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth. 

As guests entered the park, they were handed carnations. Each flower serving as an offering of the grief that has torn hearts apart, as baskets overflowed, the flowers will be taken to the lost at sea memorial.

“When you see a dolphin, remember our brothers and sisters who perished in the sea,” said Barthelmess.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says it has been able to use DNA evidence to identify 23 of the 34 victims. They've released the names of 22 people, now that their families have been notified. 

Most of them are from California and three are from the South Coast.

26-year-old Wei Tan was from Goleta.

26-year-old Kendra Chan was from Oxnard.

26-year-old Alexandra Kurtz was from Santa Barbara.

She was the sixth crewmember on the Conception.

Her family says she left the movie industry and moved to Santa Barbara earlier this year to pursue her dream of working on a boat.

Salvage efforts of the Conception were temporarily called off late Friday afternoon.

The coast guard says there are weather and safety concerns and officials are closely monitoring high winds.

Sheriff Bill Brown announced Friday that crews are still looking for the last victim in the boat fire.


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