Mill Valley woman identified as victim in dive boat disaster

Lisa Fielder, 52, of Mill Valley was on board the dive boat Conception that went up in flames early Monday near an island off the Southern California coast.

Lisa’s mother, Nancy Fielder, told ABC 7 News she presumes her only child is dead.

“Everybody loved her. She was a kind, gentle person. She was a naturalist, she loved nature,” Nancy told ABC 7.

The Michigan native had worked as a hair stylist for 20 years, with more than 13 of those years at Dagaz Salon in Mill Valley. A woman who answered the phone at the salon said Fielder’s colleagues weren’t ready to make a statement at this time and added, “I think we’re still hoping.”

Fielder’s biography on the salon site expresses the care she put into her clients and the appreciation she had for her coworkers. “Lisa’s favorite part of the day is getting to be creative and catching up with all of her regular customers,” it reads. “She loves seeing people grow and succeed, and checking in with them about all the different things that they’re working on, personally and professionally. For Lisa, her clients and coworkers are family.”

Fielder enjoyed taking pictures and her photography website displays collections of nature photography from her own backyard in Marin County to far-flung places such as Guatemala, Holland and China. Her Facebook page shows she went to Cozumel, Mexico, in January for a scuba diving trip with Worldwide Diving Adventures, the same company that chartered the Conception over Labor Day weekend.

“Yesterday I did my deepest dive ever at Punta Sur, called ‘devils throat,'” she wrote. “Series of tunnels and caverns and ends at 135ft! Super amazing. Petting an Octopus on a night dive was another highlight!”

ALSO: Apple confirms two employees among dead in dive boat fire

The Conception was anchored in Platt’s Harbor off Santa Cruz Island when it became fully engulfed in flames as 30 passengers slept below deck on Labor Day.

“You couldn’t ask for a worse situation,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a Monday news conference.

High school students, a science teacher and his daughter, an adventurous marine biologist and a family of five celebrating a birthday are among the victims of a fire that tore through a scuba diving boat off Southern California’s coast, trapping dozens of sleeping people below deck. Authorities said Wednesday the bodies of 33 of the 34 presumed dead had been recovered.

The new count of confirmed deaths came after officials recovered 13 bodies on Tuesday, said Coast Guard Lt. Zach Farrell, a spokesman for the inter-agency joint information center in Santa Barbara representing local, county, state and federal officials involved in the case.

Five crew members, including the captain, managed to escape after Monday’s pre-dawn fire that engulfed the boat named Conception 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.

Flames moved so quickly through the 75-foot (23-meter) vessel that it blocked a narrow stairway and an escape hatch leading to the upper decks, giving those below virtually no chance of escaping, authorities said.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amy Graff is a digital reporter with SFGATE. Email her story tips at

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