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Diving Community Mourns the Victims of the Conception Tragedy
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, September 9, 2019 @ 09:00 PM (EST)
Source: Los Angeles Times

On Friday, September 6th, hundreds of people gathered at Santa Barbara’s waterfront Chase Palm Park at a vigil for the victims of the tragic fire aboard the Conception. The crowd was assembled in front of an arrangement of 34 scuba cylinders, one for each victim.

Among the mourners struggling to fight back tears was Glen Fritzler, the owner of Truth Aquatics, which operated the Conception. He was flanked by employees as well as the victims’ family members, showing strong support for his company, which is well respected among the close-knit local diving community.

Singer-songwriter and Santa Barbara City College student Jackson Gillies played guitar and sang “Amazing Grace” as mourners placed carnations in a basket. “Our common love of diving binds us together for eternity,” said longtime diver Don Barthelmess, addressing the crowd. “When you see a dolphin, remember our brothers and sisters.”

Writing in a Scuba Diving magazine article entitled “About California Divers in Particular: Mourning the Conception Dive Boat Tragedy,” underwater photographer Allison Vitsky Sallmon captures the community’s feelings of loss and disbelief:

“We reach out for each other, comforting people we know only by name, hugging random acquaintances, and making sure to tell our closest dive buddies how very much we love them. We take time, every single day, to do anything we can to help each other ease a pain that seems so private, so draining, so unimaginable.

“And most of all, we make plans to get back into the ocean, to honor a loss that deserves to be honored in the best way we know how, in the best way we can.”




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