Three Indian Americans were among the 34 people who died after a diving boat caught fire and sank Sept. 2 off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, north of Los Angeles.
A married couple from Stamford, Connecticut, Sanjeeri Deopujari and Kaustubh Nirmal; and San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.-based research scientist Sunil Singh Sandhu, were on board the ill-fated boat packed with scuba divers.
Deopujari, a dentist, and Nirmal, who worked in a finance company, were married two years ago.
Nirmal was from Jaipur, Rajasthan, and Deopujari was from Nagpur, Maharashtra.
Nirmal’s cousin, Rajul Sharma, told the LA Times in an e-mail: “He found a soulmate in Sanjeeri. Their love for each other was apparent even without them speaking about it… God took them away from us untimely and unfairly, but even he didn’t have the heart to separate them in death.”
Sandhu, 46, earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University and worked as a scientist at a Palo Alto research company, according to the LA Times, which also added that he was a newcomer to scuba diving, picking up the sport two months before his death.
Sandhu’s family lives in Singapore. According to the LA Times, even after 24 years in the United States, Sandhu still called his family in Singapore every week, and visited his father and two sisters at least once a year.
“I never had to worry about my son,” his father, Soji Singh, told the New Paper in Singapore. “He was a nice boy who had no bad habits. The only thing that I worried about was him not being married.”
The last time the father and son spoke was Aug. 30.
“I told him to be careful because scuba diving can be a dangerous sport,” Singh told the New Paper. “I didn't know that he was going for another trip. I had been trying to persuade him to come back to Singapore.”
Thirty-four lives were lost after a 75-foot vessel called the Conception burst into flames during a three-day diving excursion.
Five of the six crew members were able to escape since they were on the third deck of the ship when the fire broke out, NBC reported. All the passengers and one crew member were below the main deck area and likely got trapped and couldn’t escape the flames.
The New York Times has called it the “one of California’s worst maritime disasters in decades.”