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

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Posted at 12:38 PM, Sep 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-03 17:28:24-04

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."

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."