SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — Communities across the Bay Area are coming together to grieve the lives lost in the disastrous diving boat fire that happened near the Channel Islands in the early morning hours of Labor Day.
For volunteers at the Santa Cruz animal shelter, the tragedy is especially heart breaking.
After a week of looking into the lives lost on that dive boat, there is one common theme about the scuba divers that emerges time and again: They were a special breed who take their thirst for adventure, kindness of spirit, and love for life to a whole new level.
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“It’s a huge loss for the community in general,” said Kyle Gorham, who runs Adventure Sports Unlimited in Santa Cruz.
Gorham said boat fire victim Steve Salika was an instructor at the shop for several years. Salika was also a longtime senior manager at Apple.
“Shocking; very heavy hearted. It’s rough. Really, really rough,” explained Gorham.
South Carolina-based Kids Sea Camp shared photos of Tia Salika. She was celebrating her 17th birthday on the doomed scuba trip, along with her friend, Berenice Felipe. Both were attending pacific collegiate school in Santa Cruz.
Steve and his wife Diana Adamic had been taking Tia to Kids Sea Camp since she was six years old. They raised her with a passion for diving.
The Salika family took trips around the world, working to help the environment and donating to local needy schools along the way.
“It’s just who they were as individuals; who they were as a family. And how they approached literally everything that I saw them do,” said Jen Walker, a former employee Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.
Walker and Adamic became close while they worked at the shelter, where the flag is flying at half staff, in honor of the salika family.
Adamic was a longtime volunteer and later worked as a humane educator.
Tia also helped care for foster kittens; and she and Berenice helped provide comfort to the animals.
Diana was integral in launching the shelter’s so-called Catio program that KPIX 5 featured back in 2017. The program was a way to allow house cats to be safe outside.
“Diana, Tia, and Berenice too, they were unique individuals who made differences in ways that the ripple effects will be felt for a very long time,” said Walker. “What we can best do, and I’ve been asking everyone else to do, is be a little extra kind today. Find a way to be a little kinder than usual. Find a way to do one more thing that helps the world around us.”