Santa Cruz students were on boat during deadly fire off SoCal coast, school says

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Tight embraces, tears and flowers went through the doors of Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz Tuesday morning.

"I expect today is going to be a difficult day," Maria Reitano, Head of School, said. "I think young people in particular have a variety of ways of responding to crisis situations. So we're prepared for whatever they bring to school this morning."

RELATED: Search suspended for possible survivors in deadly boat fire near Santa Cruz Island, Coast Guard says

Reitano confirmed to ABC7 News that students from her school were on board the 75-foot Conception. The scuba diving vessel erupted into flames and went down about 20 yards off of Santa Cruz Island.

Administrators have not confirmed if the students were among those killed in the fire.

"Completely engulfed boat. We're not going to make an attempt with our pumps to put it out. Main objective is to look for victims," the mayday call said.

Pacific Collegiate has called in crisis support counselors for students. The entire school has around 545 students in grades 7 through 12.
"We're a small school," Reitano said. "We're very tight knit. I anticipate that everyone in our school community, students, staff, families...will be deeply affected."

When asked exactly how many students and parents were on board the Conception, Reitano said, "I'm really not at liberty to respond to those kinds of questions until we hear from authorities on what's going on."

Others in the community are also waiting to hear updates about Santa Cruz dive instructor Kristy Finstad. According to social media posts from her brother, Finstad was leading the dive on Conception. In an updated post on Facebook Tuesday morning, her brother said, "No final word on my sister Kristy; however, it is likely she has transitioned to be with the good Lord."

Pacific Collegiate School released the following statement on Tuesday:

Pacific Collegiate School is saddened by the tragic sinking of the diving vessel Conception over the weekend. While this was not a school sponsored trip, our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the victims and those yet missing, particularly those of our students and parents on board. Thank you to the Santa Cruz community and others who have reached out to us to offer condolences and support for our school.

Please contact Santa Barbara County Sherriff's office for news and updates. Our school website will be updated with any further statements from Pacific Collegiate School.

Right now, our priority as a school community is to support our students, staff, and families in the wake of this tragedy. We have been working closely with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and Santa Cruz County Mental Health Services to activate the School Emergency Response Protocol (SERP) in order to provide much needed resources and a network of additional support to our school community.

Please respect our need to gather as a school community, to respond privately, and to care for our students and families.
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