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Marine biologist from Oostburg among victims of dive-boat fire off California coast

Kristy Finstad

OOSTBURG -- A marine biologist from Oostburg is among those presumed dead in a fire that swept through a scuba diving boat off the southern California coast.

Forty-one-year-old Kristy Finstad, who co-owned Worldwide Diving Adventures, was leading the scuba diving trip on the chartered boat when it caught fire Monday and trapped 34 people on board.

Finstad graduated from Oostburg High School. Educators there remember her as a star pupil.

Kristy Finstad was a marine biologist who grew up swimming off the state's Channel Islands. She was also the owner of a Santa Cruz-based diving company, and was on board the Conception, her brother said.
CREDIT: Ralph A. Clevenger/World Diving Adventures

"It's really easy to remember Kristy, even though so many years have passed," said Oostburg High School Principal Scott Greupink. "She stood out. She was an exceptional student."

Finstad graduated in 1996.

Kristy Finstad

"The family was really involved with our school. With five children going through, really all of them playing pretty prominent roles in our school," said Principal Greupink.

Finstad was known throughout the school for her passion for marine biology.

Scott Greupink

"She had really big horizons. She had big dreams. When she left here, she went off to California. It's really fun to hear that she accomplished those dreams and lived the life that she wanted to live," said Greupink.

It is not known what went wrong aboard the boat.

"Our thoughts just go back to the family as they are waiting and wondering about the situation. They're in our thoughts and prayers and we want to support them in any way that we can," said Greupink.

DNA testing will have to be done before the bodies recovered can be identified. School leaders are preparing to offer support to Finstad's family.

The 75' Conception, based in Santa Barbara Harbor, caught fire early 9/2 while anchored off Santa Cruz Island, multiple agencies responded. 5 people were rescued and 34 are missing.

"I know that in a small town like this, everyone will rally around them and we hope that helps," said Greupink.

Finstad studied damselfish and corals in the Tahitian Islands, dove for black pearls in the French Polynesian Tuamotus Islands and counted salmonids for the city of Santa Cruz, where she lived. She also did research for the Australian Institute of Marine Science and wrote a restoration guidebook for the California Coastal Commission.

Although Finstad has not officially been confirmed dead, her brother recently shared in a Facebook post he believes she has gone to be with God.

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