Family of 5 celebrating father's birthday presumed dead in California boat fire

Three sisters, their father and stepmother are among the 34 people presumed dead after a commercial diving vessel caught fire off California's Santa Cruz Island.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Five members of the same family are among the 34 people who are presumed dead by the U.S. Coast Guard after a commercial diving boat caught fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in California.

Sisters Nicole Storm Quitasol, Angela Rose Quitasol and Evanmichel Quitasol were on board the 75-foot commercial vessel called the Conception along with their father, Michael Quitasol, and their stepmother, Fernisa Sison, according to the girls' mother, Susana Solano Rosas.

The family was on a diving trip celebrating Michael Quitasol's birthday, according to NBC affiliate KCRA.

Five members of the Quitasol family are among the 34 people presumed dead following a fire that engulfed a commercial diving vessel on Monday morning. NicoleStorm Quitasol/Facebook

Rosas wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday that three of her four daughters were on the boat with her ex-husband and his wife.

"It is with a broken heart ... 3 of our daughters were on this boat,'' she wrote. "As of now they are still missing. My #1, Evanmichel Solano Quitasol, my #3, NicoleStorm 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. Thank you to all of you for your support prayers and good wishes."

The boat, which was carrying 33 passengers and six crew members, caught on fire about 3:30 a.m. Monday, officials said.

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"So the fire had grown so dramatically there was no way anyone could get out from below deck,'' Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference Tuesday.

A search for 33 missing passengers and one missing crew member was called off on Tuesday morning, Coast Guard officials said. The remains of 11 women and nine men have been recovered, Brown said at the news conference.

Brown told NBC News that the fire exploded so quickly the crew would not have been able to reach the people sleeping below to save them. Investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire.

Family and friends of the Quitasols are grieving the devastating loss.

Sisters (from left) Angela, Evan and Nicole Quitasol are among the 34 people presumed dead from a diving boat fire in California. A fourth sister, Christina (far right), was not on the trip. Courtesy of Quitasol Family

"I heard there's people missing and then to actually put the family to it, that's even worse,'' Julissa Garcia, a cousin of the family, told KCRA. "They're outstanding citizens. They're just beautiful, special. They did everything right. I don't understand."

"People like that are one in a million,'' Maggie Salas, a friend of Susana Rosas, told KCRA. "I think Susana's family was one in a million. They were strong and very beautiful people."

Evanmichel Quitasol was a nurse at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton, California, where her father and stepmother were also longtime employees.

Dozens of people gathered in the hospital chapel at St. Joseph's on Tuesday morning to pray for the family.

"We were extremely saddened to learn the tragic news that one of our nurses was on board the Conception,'' the hospital 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."

Angela Quitasol was a seventh grade teacher at Sierra Middle School in Stockton, and Nicole Quitasol lived and worked as a bartender in the San Diego area.

"Nicole has worked with our Nicky Rottens Coronado family for years, and she will be remembered as an adventurous & loving soul,'' Nicole Quitasol's boss, Bryn Andrew, wrote on an online fundraising page for the family. "Our hearts are broken and we can't imagine the pain her family feels."

Angela Quitasol was remembered in a Facebook post by Port City Roller Girls, a roller derby team she played on in Stockton.

"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 stepmother, were amongst those aboard the boat affected by fire near Santa Cruz Island,” the organization wrote.