SANTA BARBARA (CBSLA) — As authorities continued working Tuesday to identify the victims of the deadly weekend boat fire near Santa Cruz Island, family and friends began to identify the presumed 34 people killed.
Sherrie McDonna broke down into tears as she held a photo of her daughter Alexandra Kurtz at a memorial set up at a dock in Santa Barbara where the Conception Charter Boat was scheduled to return Monday night.
“She was a go-getter. She was just following her dreams,” McDonna said. “She loved it here, she loved the boat, she loved diving.”
Kurtz, also known as Allie, was on the three-day scuba diving excursion when the Conception Charter Boat went up in flames early Monday morning.
The emotions of her loss was overwhelming for her mother.
“It comes in waves. I never thought I would have to go through this. She just wanted to follow her dream of the ocean, the sea, diving. That’s what she wanted to do, that’s where she was happy at,” said McDonna.
A photo of Kurtz sits at the growing memorial for the 34 people who authorities believe were sleeping below deck when the fire started.
Another woman said she lost her sister in the fire.
“She was a crew member…I think that’s all I want to talk about right now,” said the unidentified woman.
The Coast Guard called off the search for any survivors Tuesday morning and said in a press conference that DNA tests will be necessary to identify most of the victims.
In the midst of the tragedy, family and friends have begun to remember the 34 passengers that remain unidentified or missing.
Among those being mourned was a couple, Patricia Beitzinger and Neal Baltz, who friends described as funny and always willing to help.
Other passengers were acquaintances posted online tributes to were Marybeth Guiney and Charles McIlvain, both of whom were diving enthusiasts from Santa Monica.
The Malibu Divers dive shop posted on its Facebook page: “All of us are devastated by the Conception dive boat tragedy. We’d like to honor Charles McIlvain and Marybeth Guiney by asking you to tell a story about a dive adventure or (anecdote) you had with them. Please share, I know it will help us all.”
Guiney, a sales director and ocean enthusiast who was dedicated to the protection of sharks and other sea life, was hailed by friends as an outgoing figure who always had a smile.
McIlvain, according to his Facebook page, worked as a visual effects designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. His wife, filmmaker Jasmine Lord, was not with him on Conception dive boat.
Kristy Finstad, who was said to be leading the diving excursion, was onboard.
A school in Santa Cruz was mourning the loss of at least two students and two parents.
“Because we’re a small school we’re very tight-knit. I anticipate everyone in our school community; students, staff, families, will be deeply affected,” said one woman.
A family of five from Northern California was also said to be among the list of victims.
Authorities said they will be using a rapid DNA test to try to identify the bodies that have been recovered so far.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, the environmental group Heal the Bay plans to hold a community gathering/vigil/fundraiser in honor of all the victims of the fire. The gathering will be held at Heal the Bay’s aquarium beneath the Santa Monica Pier.
The five crew members who survived the 3:15 a.m. fire Monday morning, were brought to safety by a pair of good Samaritans who happened to be anchored nearby.
As of Tuesday morning, 20 of the 34 missing had been recovered, and four to six more bodies were spotted near the sunken wreckage.
The rest were presumed dead, although their bodies had not yet been found.