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New Mexico woman dies when Fla. dive boat capsizes

MIAMI — A diver who died in a Thanksgiving Day boating accident was a manager at one of the nation’s leading research laboratories, authorities said Friday.

Nina Poppelsdorf, 54, drowned after a large wave flipped over a 45-foot catamaran carrying her, her nephew, and nearly two dozen others.

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The Sandia Park, N.M., woman died at a hospital, said Broward County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dani Moschella. Witnesses said the boat, the Coral Princess, was approaching the Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach when a wave 8 to 10 feet high flipped the craft.

Poppelsdorf was in Florida with her nephew, who is from Pennsylvania, for the dive trip.

‘‘They just went on this fun trip together to just do dives,’’ Moschella aid. ‘‘So this is especially tragic that it was on Thanksgiving.’’

Poppelsdorf was a senior manager of the radiation protection, industrial hygiene, and safety center at Sandia National Laboratories, lab spokeswoman Heather Clark said. She was hired in 1992 at the federal research and development center.

Darrell Fong, a Sandia Labs safety engineering manager who worked with Poppelsdorf, said she was admired for her professionalism and easily identified by her laugh.

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“Everyone could recognize her laughter. They’d say ‘Oh, there’s Nina.,’ ” Fong said.

Poppelsdorf was a leader of a Sandia team that helped in the response to the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami left several reactors there without cooling water, Fong said.

He also said Poppelsdorf was a certified diving instructor.

The Coral Princess is a Corinthian catamaran owned by South Florida Diving Headquarters in Pompano Beach. A phone message left Friday for the owner of the boat was not immediately returned.

Three of the 23 people on the boat were treated and released.

Officials said nearby boaters jumped into the water to pull people to safety. Pompano Beach Fire Rescue workers used personal watercraft to get to the site.

The accident remains under investigation.

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