Kristy Finstad: Dive Leader Feared Dead in Santa Cruz Boat Fire

Kristy Finstad was the dive leader on the Santa Cruz boat that caught fire early Monday morning. The marine biologist is among the dozens who are still missing and feared dead after the tragic fire.

Finstad’s brother, Brett Harmeling, shared the news of his sister’s involvement with the boat on Monday, several hours after news of the fire spread. “Please pray for my sister Kristy!!” he wrote. “She was leading a dive trip on this boat. ??”

According to The New York Post, Finstad co-owns the diving company which chartered the The Conception (the 75 foot boat that caught on fire early Monday morning). Her company is called Worldwide Diving Adventures.

Here’s what you need to know:


Finstad Was Running the Diving Expedition & Is Feared Dead

Finstad inherited Worldwide Diving from her father, Bill Finstad, who founded the company in 1972. She became the owner of the company after her father passed away, according to The New York Post; she co-owns the company with her husband, Dan Chua.

Chua is not among the missing from the fire. He told a Facebook user that he was supposed to be on this trip, but instead he was leading a dive team out near Costa Rica at the time of the accident.

Authorities have confirmed there were 39 people on the boat at the time of the fire; five people, all of whom were crew members, escaped from the boat, and the remaining 34 were believed to be trapped down below or otherwise missing. By Monday afternoon, authorities were able to confirm eight fatalities at least, having found eight bodies in the water.

According to her bio on Worldwide Diving Adventures, Finstad has thousands of dives to date in her career, and is a NAUI instructor with a degree in Aquatic Biology. Finstad’s bio reads in part,

Twice funded by the National Science Foundation, Kristy studied damselfish and corals in the Tahitian Islands; she was also a full-scholar abroad in Costa Rica and Australia.  Kristy’s employment history includes research diving for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, authoring a restoration guidebook for the California Coastal Commission, diving for black pearls in the Tuamotus, and counting salmonids for the City of Santa Cruz.

Finstad said via the site, “My mission is to inspire appreciation for our underwater world. I feel incredibly fortunate to be in the service of helping people invest in experiences of a lifetime.”

Kristy Finstad Facebook

Tributes and consolations have already flooded in for Finstad, particularly in the comments section for her brother’s Facebook status. “I’m so sorry,” one user wrote. “My thoughts are with your family and Dan.”

Another user wrote, “Nothing but positive vibes, thoughts and prayers for your family and your sisters safe return home”

Still another Facebook user wrote, “Been friends and dove with Kristy, her Dad and Dan many times. Very scary praying for good news”

Finstad’s brother spoke to The New York Daily News about the horrifying situation on Monday. “We’re still waiting to hear, unfortunately. It’s not looking good,” he said. “She’d be the person who could make it if it’s possible. She could hold her breath for an insane amount of time. It just doesn’t sound like there was a chance for anyone to get out.”

He continued, “She’s a very strong, strong woman. But they’ve been searching for a long time already.”

Kristy Finstad Facebook

Harmeling also took the time to describe his sister’s personality. “She’s really in touch with nature,” he offered. “She knows everything about the ocean. She’s been diving almost as long as she’s been walking. She’s very intuitive, very loving and very adventurous.”


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