The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JULIE WAT­SON

Peo­ple across the US and as far away as Ja­pan and In­dia are mourn­ing the loss of peo­ple who died in a fire aboard the dive boat Con­cep­tion.

Less than a year ago, Tia Sa­lika was wear­ing an an­i­mal-print scuba suit and pos­ing for a pho­to­graph in the depths of the iri­des­cent blue ocean off South Amer­ica with her par­ents and her best friend.

So it seemed only fit­ting that the high schooler would cel­e­brate her 17th birth­day with another ad­ven­ture: A div­ing tour through Cal­i­for­nia’s rugged Chan­nel Is­lands, a na­tional park off Santa Bar­bara’s coast.

That was how she and her par­ents lived their lives — as fear­less world ex­plor­ers like so many of the oth­ers who boarded the Con­cep­tion ves­sel for the three-day ex­cur­sion, friends said. Sa­lika’s birth­day ended in tragedy when fire erupted on the com­mer­cial dive boat, trap­ping the 33 divers and a crew mem­ber sleep­ing be­low deck.

The pain would be felt across Cal­i­for­nia, the United States and as far away as Ja­pan, In­dia and Sin­ga­pore.

The Con­cep­tion brought to­gether an ex­cep­tional group of peo­ple, who left be­hind a trail of pho­tos and so­cial me­dia post­ings that serve as a tes­ta­ment to their lives. They were sci­en­tists, teach­ers, nurses, en­trepreneur­s, en­gi­neers, artists, pho­tog­ra­phers and ac­tivists. One woman, a wa­ter district em­ployee, was dubbed the “Wa­ter Princess” for her work in urg­ing peo­ple to con­serve wa­ter. Another was a sales di­rec­tor who de­voted her time ad­vo­cat­ing for the pro­tec­tion of sharks.

They worked in ev­ery­thing from the movie in­dus­try in Hol­ly­wood to re­search at Stan­ford Univer­sity. Many had grad­u­ated from top uni­ver­si­ties with ad­vanced de­grees. Sev­eral spoke mul­ti­ple lan­guages. Two grew up in Sin­ga­pore, and two oth­ers were from In­dia. One had a mother in Ja­pan.

After read­ing some of the names of those iden­ti­fied so far, Santa Bar­bara County Sher­iff Bill Brown said, “This list is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the di­verse makeup of the pas­sen­gers and crew who were aboard the Con­cep­tion on that fate­ful day. They were from our lo­cal area and from through­out Cal­i­for­nia, from across the United States and from around the world. Their tragic loss has dev­as­tated count­less fam­ily mem­bers, loved ones, friends and col­leagues.”

Many had trav­eled, worked and vol­un­teered in places around the globe from Antarc­tica to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands. Their love of the Earth’s un­der­wa­ter worlds tran­scended into a pas­sion for all liv­ing things. It bonded them — a physics teacher with his 26-year-old daugh­ter, a fam­ily of five also on a birth­day trip for the fa­ther, neigh­bors from Santa Mon­ica and of course, the Sa­likas.

Tia Sa­lika first put on a dive tank at the age of 6, said Tom Pey­ton, vice president of Kids Sea Camp, a scuba div­ing tour com­pany. The Sa­lika fam­ily felt like a part of Pey­ton’s fam­ily be­cause they trav­eled with the South Carolina out­fit­ter for about a decade, in­clud­ing last Novem­ber to Bon­aire is­land, off Venezuela’s coast, he said.

“This fam­ily was in­cred­i­bly ad­ven­tur­ous, very fear­less,” he said.

Tia Sa­lika’s fa­ther, Steve Sa­lika, 55, who worked for 30 years for Ap­ple, and her mother, Diana Adamic, 60, showed her the world, he said.

Adamic, who vol­un­teered with Tia and her best friend, Berenice Fe­lipe, had a “com­pas­sion­ate, in­quis­i­tive na­ture and personal ex­pe­ri­ences” that “drove her to seek in­no­va­tive ways to make the com­mu­nity around her a bet­ter place,” Jen Walker, a former hu­mane ed­u­ca­tor at the Santa Cruz County An­i­mal Shel­ter, posted on the shel­ter’s Face­book page.

Many aboard the Con­cep­tion posted in blogs about be­ing in awe of the planet’s won­ders and want­ing to cap­ture it in pho­tos.

Pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher An­drew Fritz, 40, who was on the boat with his wife, an en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist who had done re­search in Antarc­tica, wrote on his web­site that he was so enamored at see­ing a Chee­tah run at the San Diego Sa­fari Park he had to put down his cam­era and watch with his own eyes.

Many talked about liv­ing to in­spire oth­ers or to be in­spired.

Lisa Fiedler, a 52-yearold hair­dresser and pho­tog­ra­pher, said on her pho­tog­ra­phy web­site that the mo­ment she picked up the cam­era, she re­al­ized “I en­joyed cre­at­ing and shar­ing im­ages that re­flect the way I ab­sorb the grandeur of na­ture.”

There were also dream­ers and risk tak­ers. Al­lie Kurtz, 26, quit her job in the movie in­dus­try to be­come a deck hand on the Con­cep­tion. She was the only crew mem­ber of six to die be­cause she was sleep­ing be­low deck where the divers were.


At­ten­dees grieve dur­ing a vigil Fri­day in Santa Bar­bara, Calif., for the vic­tims of a fire aboard the dive boat Con­cep­tion. The Sept. 2 fire took the lives of 34 peo­ple on the ship off the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia coast near Santa Bar­bara.


A grow­ing memo­rial to those who died aboard the dive boat Con­cep­tion is seen Fri­day in Santa Bar­bara, Calif. The dive boat in the back­ground is the Vi­sion, which is from the same fleet of boats that in­clude the Con­cep­tion, owned by Truth Aquat­ics.

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