Newsletter: Five members of the same family among those presumed dead in boat fire

A memorial at Santa Barbara Harbor, where the dive boat Conception was based.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 4, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

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The flower- and candle-strewn impromptu memorial at Santa Barbara Harbor continued to grow Tuesday, as more information about the Conception boat tragedy trickled out in devastatingly sad bits and spurts.

After seven rescue missions spanning an area of 160 miles yielded no signs of additional survivors, authorities suspended their rescue efforts about 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Thirty-four people — 33 passengers and one crew member — are presumed dead.

The names of those who perished in the fire have not yet been released, and officials say they have received more than 100 calls from family or friends who believe their loved ones were on board the Conception. Most of the people aboard the ship are thought to have been from the Santa Cruz and San Jose areas. A special team from the California Department of Justice will help Santa Barbara County officials use a rapid DNA analysis tool to identify victims.


“The horrific incident is being felt deeply by our community,” Santa Cruz Mayor Martine Watkins said in a statement. Grief counselors were on hand at a charter high school in Santa Cruz where two students are among the missing.

In Stockton, the community is mourning five members of the same family who were all aboard the Conception. Three sisters — Angela, Nicole and Evan Quitasol — were celebrating their father’s birthday with a diving adventure. Their father and stepmother were also with them. The three women had served as bridesmaids in a fourth sister’s wedding two weeks ago.

Answers about what happened Monday morning will take time, but the National Transportation Safety Board, which will lead the safety investigation, began its inquiry Tuesday morning with a team of 16 investigators. The team will be on site for seven to 10 days and will work closely with the Coast Guard and first responders, according to an NTSB board member.

More coverage:

  • How did crew members survive the fire? Their location allowed for escape, the sheriff says. Los Angeles Times
  • Rescue operations are suspended after no signs of other survivors; 20 bodies found, 14 still missing. Los Angeles Times
  • Three sisters celebrating their dad’s birthday are feared lost. Los Angeles Times
  • “The dive community is a family.” The boat fire devastates the community of local divers. Los Angeles Times

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


The California Assembly has approved a bill to tighten the state’s school immunization law, putting the measure one step closer to reaching Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. Senate Bill 276 now heads back to the Senate, where an earlier version passed in May. The bill comes amid the worst measles outbreak in more than 20 years, with more than 1,200 people nationwide diagnosed with the disease this year. Los Angeles Times

Records show that USC officials discussed how much wealthy parents could donate when their children applied. The cache of emails, which were made public Tuesday when an attorney for a father facing charges in the college admissions scandal filed them in court, turns an unsparing light on how the university flags children of possible donors and other influential families for special consideration in the application process. Los Angeles Times


L.A.'s new intergenerational queer culinary school teaches more than cooking. them

Linda Hamilton fled Hollywood nearly three decades ago, but “Terminator” still found her. New York Times

George Takei’s graphic memoir “They Called Us Enemy” shows injustice through a child’s eyes. (The Los Angeles Times Book Club will welcome Takei for a conversation about the book on Sept. 10. Get tickets here.) Los Angeles Times

A charter school compromise could intensify L.A.'s school board battles. Los Angeles Times

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California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has halted fundraising amid continuing scrutiny into donations from the industry he regulates. Sacramento Bee

A Wild West California law dating back to 1872 that made it a crime to refuse a police officer’s request for help is no more. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill striking down the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872, which lawmakers have called “a vestige of a bygone era.” Sacramento Bee

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s universal basic income proposal has brought renewed attention to a Stockton pilot program testing out that very concept. Here’s a deeper look at that Stockton program, which has been giving $500 a month to 130 residents. Los Angeles Times (Note: This story ran in April 2019)


Gang-related crime in San Diego has spiked in recent months after a year of declines. San Diego Union-Tribune

At least 58 people were arrested at this year’s Burning Man festival, a 15-person increase from last year. Reno Gazette-Journal

Jury deliberations in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire trial have resumed after more than a week’s hiatus. East Bay Times


Dr. Bob Sears’ views on vaccines have inspired loyal followers — and a crush of criticism. Los Angeles Times

More than 500 people were injured by stingrays along the Orange County coast over the holiday weekend. Orange County Register


Napa is often associated with great wealth, but many residents struggle to pay rent. The stress of finding and holding onto housing in the county’s tight market can be detrimental to mental and physical health. Napa Valley Register

Residents of San Diego’s Barrio Logan say big truck traffic continues to mar their neighborhood, despite a City Council resolution designed to cut down on heavy truck traffic in the neighborhood to improve air quality, safety and health. San Diego Union-Tribune

San Francisco’s iconic cable cars will be out of service for 10 days while the city replaces its gear boxes. San Francisco Chronicle


The demolition of Studio City’s Sportsmen’s Lodge events center began over the weekend. The Valley institution will be replaced by a nearly 80,000-square-foot shopping center anchored by an Equinox gym and Erewhon market that is slated to open in fall 2020. Los Angeles Daily News

A woman walks her dog along Ventura Boulevard past the landmark Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City, clearly sometime before demolition began this weekend.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The forthcoming Railroads development could accelerate growth in Sacramento’s booming downtown. Curbed

Marin could have had a BART line, but backroom politics got in the way. SF Gate

The internet’s longest-running webcam has been saved from potential shutdown. San Francisco State will take over FogCam for the foreseeable future. KQED

UC Davis will disband its student-run marching band after an investigation found binge drinking and harassment. Sacramento Bee

With newspapers leaving Starbucks, a columnist went searching for a morning copy of the Gray Lady from Pomona to Claremont to Chino Hills. Inland Valley Daily Bulletin


Los Angeles: sunny, 93. San Diego: sunny, 85. San Francisco: partly sunny, 70. San Jose: partly sunny, 82. Sacramento: sunny, 95. More weather is here.


“In California everyone goes to a therapist, is a therapist, or is a therapist going to a therapist.”

— -Truman Capote

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Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.