Families, Dive Community Honor Lives Lost on the Anniversary of the M/V Conception Tragedy

September 2, 2020 marks the one-year anniversary of the fire aboard the M/V Conception that claimed the lives of 34 divers. To honor these souls, an underwater memorial stone was placed at the site of the tragedy off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, California, USA on August 31, 2020.

Numerous organizations, agencies and individuals came together to commemorate the victims and make the underwater memorial possible. Barbara Gentile, owner of Malibu Divers, championed the effort and orchestrated the memorial’s logistics, bringing the families together to honor their loved ones in solidarity. PADI® and DAN® sponsored and sourced the memorial stone and plaque. Los Angeles Port Police, Los Angeles Sheriff Department Dive Team and Reserve Dive Team, and NOAA were instrumental in transporting and placing the monument underwater off Santa Cruz Island. And the California State Lands Commission, California Coastal Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service, and NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary all played a critical role in permitting and regulatory consultation.

“A year later, the dive community takes pause to honor the memory of the brothers and sisters we lost. We reflect both on the courage of those who grieve for them and the light of the memory of loved ones still living in our hearts. Loving friends and family are so very hard to spare and we will continue to feel this tragic loss for years to come,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “It is our hope that this monument will memorialize and honor the souls that were lost and perhaps help foster an inner peace in the families, friends and community who were profoundly and deeply affected by this tragic event.”

“This memorial serves as a reminder that although these divers are gone, they are not forgotten,” said Bill Ziefle, DAN President and CEO. “We thank Barbara for championing this effort to immortalize their names, share their stories and honor their memories. We are an indomitable community, and as we look forward we know we must remember those we’ve lost and learn from this tragedy.”

Following the tragedy, divers and dive industry organizations raised more than $220,000 for the families who lost loved ones in the M/V Conception disaster.

Family members and close friends of the victims, and first responders from the tragedy, are visiting the site together on this anniversary, many of them scuba diving down to the memorial stone and plaque that rests beneath the surface of Platt’s Harbor, where the M/V Conception sank.

“The trip is a day of reverence, prayer, celebration, great sadness, tears and comfort to be together to mourn and remember the tragic event that forever changed us,” says Gentile, who organized the anniversary charter boat trip for loved ones to Santa Cruz Island. “An event and project like this was something to put energy into to remember others – others who are and have been dealt even more loss than can be imagined.”

“The California dive community amazingly grieved with us while simultaneously accomplishing the exceptional feat of establishing a permanent underwater monument in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to honor all loved ones lost in the M/V Conception fire. The tragedy has brought much pain but this stone, placed among protected land and water, where conservation and preservation efforts of its endemic species are paramount, memorializes Marybeth and fellow divers in a most sacred way. We are eternally indebted with gratitude for the collective undertaking by all those involved,” says Michelle Lee Guiney, on behalf of the family of Marybeth Guiney.

On this anniversary and always, the dive community remembers, as the memorial stone’s plaque reads:

In honor and memory of the loved ones lost aboard the M/V Conception

September 2, 2019
Santa Cruz Island, California

JP Ahopelto, Neal Baltz, Patricia Beitzinger, Charles “Chuck” McIlvain, Marybeth Guiney, Raymond Scott Chan, Kendra Moore Chan, Justin C. Dignam, Lisa Fiedler, Kristy Finstad, Yuko Hatano, Vaidehi Campbell Williams, Adrian Dahood-Fritz, Andrew Fritz, Dan Garcia, Yulia Krashennaya, Alexandra Haley Kurtz (Allie), Xiang Lin, Sunil Sandhu, Caroline “Carrie” Mclaughlin, Kristian Takvam, Kaustubh Nirmal, Sanjeeri Satish Deopujari, Steve Salika, Diane Adamic-Salika, Tia Adamic-Salika, Berenice Felipe, Michael Storm Quitasol, Fernisa June Sison, EvanMichel Solano Quitasol, Nicole Storm Solano Quitasol, Angela Rose Solano Quitasol, Dr. Ted Strom, Wei Tan