Community mourns Conception victims at Santa Barbara Harbor

Jun Starkey, Editor-in-Chief

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Community members continue to gather at the memorial outside of Sea Landing in the Santa Barbara harbor to remember the 34 victims lost to the Conception fire.

The 75-foot vessel caught fire and began sinking early Monday morning with only 5 crew members surviving after jumping off the deck into the sea.

Cherie McDonough, mother of 25-year-old victim Alexandra Kurtz, arrived at the memorial Tuesday and clutched her daughter’s photograph to her chest as she mourned her loss. 

“She was a go-getter,” she said, “She loved diving… She could do anything she wanted.”

The ship sent out a distress call at around 3:30 a.m., but by then the boat had already been consumed by the flames. 

Jennifer Stafford, a lifelong Santa Barbara resident, took it upon herself to add distinct pieces to the memorial, placing a flower and a pendant under each candle carefully. 

“I wanted to do this so the families would have something nice to look at,” Stafford said.

Stafford washed each flower by hand and took time picking out a pin for each of the victims. 

“I do it for them,” she said as she watched McDonough talk to members of the press about her daughter. 

Kristy Finstad, 41, was also identified as a victim of the fire by her brother Brett Harmeling in a Facebook post

Finstad was the owner of Worldwide Diving Adventures, a diving company that had chartered the Conception. 

According to the event schedule on her website, Finstad had embarked on the excursion with the intention of educating passengers about the marine life around the Channel Islands.  

On her biography page Finstad wrote, “I feel incredibly fortunate to be in the service of helping people invest in experiences of a lifetime.”

In a press conference Tuesday U.S. Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester announced the end of the search for survivors with all others missing being presumed dead.

The survivors have yet to be identified pending the investigation into the cause of the incident. 

Families seeking information can call (833) 688-5551. A family assistance center for those affected will also be available at the Earl Warren Showgrounds from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. 

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