Five members of the same close-knit family are feared dead after a devastating weekend fire on a California dive boat.
The trip for sisters Evanmichel Solano Quitasol, Nicole Quitasol and Angela Rose Quitasol was supposed to be a time of joy as the sisters celebrated their father Michael Quitasol’s birthday along with his wife, Fernisa Sison.
They boarded the boat on Saturday for a three-day excursion on the luxurious dive boat—complete with diving trips through the kelp forest, gourmet meals, and lessons on nature, according to The Los Angeles Times.
But the trip took a horrific turn just before sunrise on Monday when a fire broke out aboard the ship, presumably killing 34 people—33 passengers and one crew member—who were sleeping below. Five other crew members who were awake when the blaze began were able to escape the flames.
The sisters’ mother, Susana Solano Rosas, confirmed that three of her daughters had been aboard the boat.
“It is with a broken heart…3 of our daughters were on this boat. As of now they are still missing” she wrote on Facebook. “My #1 Evanmichel Solano Quitasol, my #3 Nicole Storm Quitasol and my #4 Angela Rose Quitasol. My girls’ dad Michel Storm Quitasol and step mom were also on the boat. We are getting the latest information from the media. The authorities do not have much to say to us.”
The Quitasol sisters’ cousin Julissa Garcia told The Record that the family is still struggling to accept the tragic news.
“I’m just devastated,” she said. “I’m in disbelief. I’m at a loss for words. I don’t truly fully understand it, yet.”
According to Garcia, a fourth sister was unable to make the trip because she couldn’t get off work.
The sisters’ stepfather Chris Rosas described the close-knit family as one-of-a-kind.
“They were the most kind, most loving people I’ve ever met, and I’m not just saying that because they’re family,” Rosas told The Times. “The way they interacted with anyone they ever came across, they were wonderful.”
The oldest, Evanmichel Solano Quitasol, was a nurse who worked in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, California.
“We are extremely saddened to learn the tragic news that one of our nurses was on board the Conception,” hospital officials said in a statement. “Two former long-term staff members were also on board. We held a prayer gathering in our Chapel this morning to offer comfort and support to our hospital family. Our hearts go out to all the families and loved ones of those on board the Conception.”
Her sister Nicole had worked as a bartender at Nicky Rottens Bar and Burger. Nicole’s boss Bryn Andrew told People that she'd loved the ocean and her golden retriever Peanut Butter.
“She was the kind of person who met once and felt like you were related to her,” he said, recalling one time he had arranged a beach clean-up for the restaurant’s employees only to have Nicole and her dog Peanut Butter be the only ones who showed up to help.
Angela worked as a middle school science teacher at the Lincoln Unified School District in Stockton. She was also once a skater with the Port City Roller Girls.
On Tuesday, the organization posted an emotional post to Facebook honoring their former teammate who had gone in the rink by the name Hermione Danger.
“Port City would like to extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the family of our former skater Angela Rose aka Hermione Danger, two of her sisters, their father and step mother, were amongst those aboard the boat affected by fire near Santa Cruz Island,” they wrote. “As of now Angela is still missing. Our thoughts are with her biggest fan and proud Port City supporter, her Mother Susana as well as her Sister Christina who also skated with us, as they continue to search for their family members. Godspeed.”
Michael Quitasol and his wife Fernisa Sison were both registered nurses and worked for Kaiser Permanente, along with daughter Evan Quitasol, who also worked at a facility owned by the health care company.
“Our sympathies are with their family and friends at this time,” Kaiser Permanente said in a statement. “We are providing support to those at Kaiser Permanente who are affected by this loss.”
In the aftermath of the devastating fire aboard the 75-foot-vessel, authorities are still trying to determine what may have caused the blaze.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester said authorities are assuming all 34 people who remained on board when the dive boat caught fire just off the north shore of Santa Cruz Island perished in the blaze.
The bodies of 11 females and 9 males have been recovered. The remaining 20 victims remain missing.
The boat lies upside down on the ocean floor.
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