Family of five among dead in California boat fire

Candles are lit in Santa Barbara Harbour at a makeshift memorial for victims of the Conception boat fireImage copyright
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Candles are lit in Santa Barbara Harbour at a makeshift memorial for victims of the Conception boat fire

Five members of a California family who were celebrating a birthday are among the 34 people assumed dead in a fire on a scuba diving boat.

Relatives said Michael Quitasol, his daughters Evan, Nicole and Angela Quitasol, and his wife, Fernisa Sison, were on the Conception.

Twenty-five bodies have been recovered from the wreck so far and authorities are working to identify them.

The boat caught fire on Monday while passengers slept below decks.

On Tuesday the search for survivors was called off. Of the 39 people on board, just five – all crew – survived by jumping overboard. A sixth member of the crew is also thought to have been trapped below.

The cause of the blaze is unknown but an investigation is under way.

The Conception is currently underwater near Santa Cruz Island, about 90 miles (145km) west of Los Angeles.

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Media captionCalifornia residents mourn victims of a boat disaster

Susana Solano Rosas said “with a broken heart” that her three daughters had died along with her ex-husband and his wife.

“The authorities do not have much to say to us,” Mrs Rosas wrote. “Thank you to all of you for your support prayers and good wishes.”

Her partner, Chris Rosas, told the Los Angeles Times that Evan was an emergency department nurse, Nicole was a bartender and Angela was a middle school science teacher.

“They were outstanding girls. That’s about all I can tell you right now.” Mr Rosas said.

The family was on the boat celebrating Mr Quitasol’s birthday, relatives said.

Who else was on the Conception?

None of those onboard have been formally identified, but family members have been posting online about their loved ones:

  • A marine biologist, 41-year-old Kristy Finstad, was leading the scuba trip, her family said. Her brother described her as “extremely strong-willed and very adventurous”
  • Physics teacher Scott Chan and his daughter Kendra were on board, according to the Fremont Unified School District
  • The Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz several of its students and parents had been on the boat, without issuing names
  • The mother of Allie Kurtz, 25, told US media her daughter was among the dead. Cherie McDonough described her as a “go-getter” who loved diving

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