Bay Area Teacher, Daughter Presumed Dead in SoCal Boat Fire

An East Bay high school teacher and his daughter were among those presumed dead in a diving boat fire early Monday morning off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Scott Chan, a physics teacher at American High School in Fremont, was on board the Conception with his daughter when the vessel went up in flames, said Brian Killgore, a spokesman for the Fremont Unified School District.

The district said in a statement that Chan taught Advance Placement physics classes for the past three years at the school and was well liked.

“His students knew him to be an innovative and inspiring teacher who developed a passion for physics among his students,” the district said in a statement. “His loss is a tremendous tragedy for our school district.”

Majority of SoCal Boat Fire Victims From Bay Area: Sheriff

[BAY] Majority of SoCal Boat Fire Victims From Bay Area: Sheriff

Chan said on his LinkedIn page that his teaching was fed by his “passion and wealth of real-world experience from research laboratories, and the electronics, computer, and high-performance automotive industries.”

Five crew members were rescued, and the bodies of 20 victims have been recovered so far. Many need to be identified by DNA analysis, and officials are collecting samples from family members.

Also below deck were students from Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz. School director Maria C. Reitano declined Tuesday to say how many students went on the trip, which was not sponsored by the school.

Brett Harmeling of Houston said that his sister Kristy Finstad, 41, was leading the scuba tour off Santa Cruz Island, part of California’s Channel Islands.

Harmeling thanked everyone in a post on his Facebook page for their “unconditional love and support during this incredibly tragic time.”

Finstad was co-owner of Worldwide Diving Adventures based in Santa Cruz, which is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Santa Cruz Island.

‘Majority’ of SoCal Boat Fire Victims From Bay Area: Sheriff

[BAY] 'Majority' of SoCal Boat Fire Victims From Bay Area: Sheriff

Finstad knew the area well, having done hundreds of dives in the Channel Islands, where she first swam with her father as a toddler. She first dove with a tank off Mexico at age 9, according to her company’s website.

Harmeling described his sister to the Los Angeles Times as extremely strong-willed and adventurous.

“If there was a one percent chance of her making it, she would have made it,” Harmeling, 31, said.

In Stockton, California, a broken-hearted mother posted on her Facebook page Tuesday that her three daughters, their father and his wife were among those presumed dead in the fire.

Susana Rosas thanked people for their prayers and support.

The family of five, celebrating a birthday with an activity they enjoyed, was among 34 people presumed dead in the blaze. All were sleeping below deck when the fire started early Monday. Other victims included students from a Northern California charter school serving grades 7-12, a high school science teacher and his daughter, an Arizona couple and a marine biologist who owned the diving company and was leading the tour.

34 Presumed Dead in Boat Fire Off Calif. Coast

[NATL] 34 Presumed Dead in Boat Fire Off Calif. Coast

Rosas posted that her three daughters — Evan, Nicole and Angela Quitasol –were on the Conception with their father Michael Quitasol and stepmother Fernisa Sison.

Evan Quitasol was a nurse at St. Joseph’s Medical Center of Stockton, where her father and Sison had worked after attending nursing school at San Joaquin Delta College.

Sison also worked at the college teaching first-year nursing students full-time in 2005 and 2006 and later as an adjunct instructor, according to the school’s spokesman, Alex Breitler.

The sisters were on the trip to celebrate their dad’s birthday, Chris Rosas said. He described them as “the most kind, most loving people I’ve ever met — and I’m not just saying that because they’re family.”

This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Bay-Area-Teacher-and-His-Daughter-Presumed-Dead-in-SoCal-Boat-Fire-559326051.html.

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