A US-based Indian couple and an Indian-origin scientist have been identified amongst the victims who lost their lives in the massive fire that broke out on the 75-foot charter boat called Conception off the California coast. As the passengers were sleeping below the deck, they died due to smoke inhalation. The boat was packed with scuba divers and sank off the coast after catching fire on September 2. A total number of 34 people, including one crew member, were killed as the fire engulfed the deck. Five crew members above the deck managed to escape by jumping overboard, according to media reports.
Identified as Kaustubh Nirmal and Sanjeeri Deopujari, the wedded couple lived in Connecticut and were on a three-day diving excursion along with other divers on board. A 31-year-old dentist from Norwalk, Sanjeeri was married to Nirmal, 44, who worked as a senior adviser at Ernst & Young.
Nirmal's cousin, Rajul Sharma told to the US media that the two were a "perfect couple." Recalling their endearing and infectious smiles, Sharma said that Kaustubh has "found a soulmate in Sanjeeri." Adding a sentimental note, Nirmal's cousin concluded that their death was "untimely" and unfair yet "God did not have the heart to separate them in death."
After the news of their demise, neighbors at the couple's apartment building remembered them by saying that they were very "nice" and "kind." They added that their death had brought them sadness and that they are in deep shock.
Sunil Singh Sandhu, 46, an Indian-origin scientist was also among the deceased in the mishap. The scientist lived and worked in the US for more than two decades, earning his master's and doctoral degrees from Stanford University and working as a scientist at a Palo Alto research company. Sandhu took up scuba diving only two months before his death. His father, Soji Singh said that he didn't know that Sandhu was going for another trip or else he would have tried to persuade him to come back to Singapore where the rest of his family lives.
The incident was reported to be one of California's worst maritime disasters in decades. Only half of the victims have been positively identified. The process was hampered by how badly burned some were. The ship carried 33 passengers and six crew members. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said that multiple investigations into the disaster are focused on determining what happened and have not become a criminal probe.