State worker from Sacramento among dive boat disaster victims; Newsom lauds her ‘passion’

The names, faces and stories continue to emerge from the horrific dive boat fire that killed 33 people off the coast of Santa Barbara early Monday.

On Thursday, they included a state senior environmental scientist and her husband, both Sacramento newcomers and victims of a catastrophe that Gov. Gavin Newsom said has been “felt by every Californian.”

Adrian Dahood-Fritz and husband Andrew Fritz were aboard the Conception when the 75-foot craft caught fire in the waters off Santa Cruz Island and sank in the early hours of Labor Day. Both are presumed dead. They were 40.

Adrian joined the California Natural Resources Agency’s Ocean Protection Council in April, leading efforts to manage the state’s network of marine protected areas, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said in a statement Thursday.

Dahood-Fritz “cared deeply about the ocean and biodiversity. She embodied marine conservation and was a highly accomplished and respected scientific researcher,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement Thursday. “Adrian’s passion and energy will be greatly missed.”

The couple moved to Sacramento from Taylor, Texas, about 35 miles northeast of Austin, for Dahood’s job about 15 months ago, friends told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper this week.

Husband Andrew Fritz was a photographer, photography teacher and a globetrotting traveler who scuba dived all over the world. Fritz was known in the couple’s former Central Texas home for his striking nature photography.

On his site, AMadTrip, “a collection of images from wandering around the Earth,” Fritz spoke of the passion he brought to his art.

It was the “product of many days and weeks of early mornings and sleepless nights,” Fritz wrote. “In many situations, I literally shed blood, sweat and tears to get the shot. Why? Because it is simply who I am. It is what I do.”

Also on Thursday came condolences, remembrances and a fuller picture of Stockton’s Michael Quitasol and eldest daughter Evanmichael Quitasol, two of the five members of the Quitasol family who perished aboard the doomed vessel.

The five -- Angela Rose Quitasol, a science teacher at Stockton’s Sierra Middle School; NicoleStorm Quitasol, a Southern California fitness instructor; Evanmichal, a longtime intensive care nurse at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton; Michael, a Stockton nurse and educator; and his current wife, Fernisa Sison, also a longtime St. Joseph’s caregiver -- were aboard the Conception to celebrate Michael’s birthday on a dream dive vacation.

Michael Quitasol, a former teacher at Stagg High School in Stockton, was a key figure in the creation of the campus’ Health Careers Academy in the 1980s, the Stockton Record reported.

Both Michael and Sison were longtime Dignity Health staff members at St. Joseph’s. Michael worked 33 years for the health network; Sison, 20 years, officials at the medical center said in a statement Thursday.

“We were extremely saddened to learn that one of our nurses, Evan Quitasol, was onboard the Conception, along with her father, Michael Quitasol, and stepmother, Fernisa Sison, who had both been long-time Dignity Health staff members,” St. Joseph’s officials said.

Evanmichael “was a treasured nurse in our Intensive Care Unit, beloved by her patients and staff,” St. Joseph’s officials said in the statement.

The three “left a lasting legacy on our health care ministry,” the statement continued. “This family of caregivers, leaders, and educators has touched countless lives in our community, caring for so many of our loved ones in their times of greatest need.”

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.