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Community remembers Los Altos father, daughter lost in Southern California boat fire

Scott and Kendra Chan” width=
Courtesy of the Chan-Moore Family via GoFundMe
Scott and Kendra Chan enjoyed a close bond, strengthened by their mutual passion for scuba diving. The Los Altos father and daughter were among the victims of the Conception boat fire.

When called on, people from around the Bay Area stepped up to contribute to a legacy fund in the names of two Los Altos residents – a father and daughter – who were among the 34 victims who died on a commercial diving boat that caught fire off the Santa Barbara coast on Labor Day. 

As of the Town Crier’s press deadline, a GoFundMe page dedicated to organizations the duo were passionate about, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the California Academy of Sciences, had raised $19,712.

Scott Chan, 59, and daughter Kendra Chan, 26, were on the Conception, a dive boat with 39 people aboard. There bodies were identified two days after the incident. The only known survivors are five crewmembers who jumped off the boat and were pulled to safety by good Samaritans aboard a nearby craft, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

At approximately 3:30 a.m. Sept. 2, the Coast Guard and partnering agencies responded to a vessel fire off the north shore of Santa Cruz Island near Platt’s Harbor in Santa Barbara County, a memo from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office reported. By the time authorities arrived on scene, the 75-foot boat was fully ablaze. It sank to the ocean floor just under four hours later.

The Chans were among several passengers on board with ties to the Bay Area.

A blow to those who knew them

Scott taught physics at American High School in Fremont, while Mountain View High School graduate Kendra was a biologist who lived in Oxnard.

Kendra Chan” width=
Courtesy of Facebook
Kendra Chan

A statement from Scott’s employer, the Fremont Union School District, and an interview with Chan’s wife and Kendra’s mother, Vicki Moore, on a Bay Area television station confirmed that Scott and Kendra were believed to have died in the incident. The school district organized a crisis intervention team for those who knew Chan during his three years teaching at American High in the wake of the “tremendous tragedy.”

“Mr. Chan was a beloved teacher at AHS among students and colleagues,” district representatives said in the statement. “His students knew him to be an innovative and inspiring teacher who developed a passion for physics among his students.”

Kendra, the couple’s older child, graduated from Mountain View High in 2011. She attended UC Davis and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in evolution, ecology and biodiversity. She had worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for nearly three years.

Kendra’s marching band director at Mountain View High, Jason Kneebone, sent a letter to parents Thursday describing her as one of “his kids” that he “misses even more now.”

“Kendra was a very active Spartan, sharing her energy between tennis, academics, and performing arts,” Kneebone wrote. “Kendra played alto saxophone and had all the traits of a typical Mountain View High band student – she was outgoing, friendly, talented and passionate about her music.”

Kneebone described Kendra as unique because of her “infectious positivity.”

“Her friends will attest to this as reflected in the many social media posts over the past few days and proven in any photo of Kendra – it's impossible to not be smiling around her,” he said.

The Chan-Moore family has gathered around Moore and her son, Kevin, offering gestures like the GoFundMe page as they adjust to their new reality.

“You don’t expect to have a child that dies before you,” Moore said, tearing up during a FaceTime interview streamed by a local TV station. “I mean, I can barely talk about my husband, but frankly, it’s harder when it’s your own child.”

Moore had dropped Scott off Friday evening, where he met their daughter at the harbor. Moore had planned to pick them up Monday afternoon.

According to Moore, the father-and-daughter pair set out on a trip to do what they loved most: scuba diving. On the FaceTime call, Moore spoke of Scott and Kendra’s longtime bond over the activity, and noted how they took at least two trips to the Channel Islands every year. They had been on the Conception before, Moore said, adding that she hoped the incident “was just an anomaly.”

Common interests

Chan and Moore met at Stanford University, she said in the FaceTime interview on her way back to Los Altos Tuesday. Chan had a long career as an engineer before moving into teaching, which is reflected on his LinkedIn profile. Moore worked in environmental sciences, advising local policy and education programs. She founded Living Classroom, a program for “garden-based” learning, and now sits on the board.

Vicki Moore Scott Chan” width=
Courtesy of Facebook
Vicki Moore and Scott Chan

“I have known Vicki for many years, since she brought the idea of Living Classroom before the school board I served on … after successfully establishing the gardens at Oak School,” said Living Classroom Executive Director Margot Harrigan in an email to the Town Crier just days after the news had circulated.

Harrigan called Moore “a patient and knowledgeable mentor.” She also mentioned her husband Mike’s and Scott’s connection, established through the bonds of mutual passions of “talking cars, bikes and diving.”

“Scott was an early enthusiast for electric cars, and my husband Mike was one of the early employees of Tesla,” Harrigan said of her family friend. “My husband brought the first Tesla Roadster to the Oak School auction many years ago, and Scott immediately bid on the opportunity for a factory tour.”

Chan served as a commissioner for the city of Los Altos for three years during his time on the Los Altos Traffic Commission from 2006 to 2009. Moore is a member of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission. The city of Los Altos did not offer a comment when contacted.

In memoriam

According to a statement from Kendra’s alma mater, UC Davis, a celebration of life is planned for October and will be open to family and friends only.

To donate to agencies that foster discovery and exploration around the interest that Kendra and Scott most valued, wildlife conservation, visit bit.ly/2k7prE3.

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