A family of five is believed to be among the victims killed in a commercial diving boat fire that tragically broke out Monday morning during a Labor Day weekend excursion. Sisters Evanmichel Solano Quitasol, Nicole Storm Quitasol, Angela Rose Quitasol, plus their father Michael Storm Quitasol and their stepmother Fernisa Sison were on board the 75-foot Conception boat celebrating Michael's birthday when flames erupted just after 3 a.m.
In Stockton Nisa Shinagawa and Dominick Selga tell us their mother, Fernisa Sison, stepfather Michael Quitasol and 3 of their 4 stepsisters, Evan, Angela and Nicole Quitasol were among the passengers on the Conception, which caught fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island @FOX40 pic.twitter.com/gMYU0KsTRL— Doug Johnson (@DougJohnsonFX40) September 3, 2019
The sisters' mother, Susana Solano Rosas, confirmed the tragic news on Tuesday, writing in a heartbreaking Facebook post that three of her daughters were missing. "It is with a broken heart ... 3 of our daughters were on this boat. As of now they are still missing ... Thank you to all of you for your support prayers and good wishes," Susana wrote.
The suspected deaths were also confirmed in a few GoFundMe pages, set up by the daughters' loved ones and former employers, like Nicole's boss at Nicky Rottens Bar and Burger in San Diego, Bryn Andrew, who said the 31-year-old was an adventurous person who loved the ocean and her golden retriever, Peanut Butter. He also noted how reliable and personable she was.
"We live in a beach town so I organized a beach clean-up, which Nicole did all the time. I asked everyone at the restaurant to participate and the only one who showed up was Nicole and Peanut Butter," Andrew told PEOPLE.
"Peanut Butter ran up to me and jumped up and kissed me. I told Nicole I thought I'd be the only one here, and she said she would never desert me," he continued. "And we cleaned up the beach for three hours."
Ella es Nicole Quitasol, una de las 39 personas que iba a bordo del barco que se incendió cerca de la isla Santa Cruz. Trabajaba en un restaurante en @CoronadoCity ¿Cómo la recuerdan sus amigos? Detalles por @Telemundo20 pic.twitter.com/WgXdbPva7R— Anlleyn Venegas (@AnlleynTLMD20) September 4, 2019
"She was the kind of person you met once and felt like you were related to her," he added.
The eldest of the sisters, Evan, worked as a nurse at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton, California. Hospital officials confirmed Evan's suspected death in a statement: "We were extremely saddened to learn the tragic news that one of our nurses was on board the Conception. 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."
Evan also worked for Kaiser Permanente with her father and stepmother, the company told PEOPLE. "On behalf of Kaiser Permanente, we are so saddened by the tragic deaths of our colleagues Fernisa Sison, Michael Quitasol, and Evan Quitasol, along with all those aboard the Conception," wrote Corwin Harper, Senior Vice President and Area Manager of Kaiser Permanente Central Valley service area, in a statement. "Our sympathies are with their family and friends at this time. We are providing support to those at Kaiser Permanente who are affected by this loss."
The youngest sister, Angela, worked as a middle school science teacher with the Lincoln Unified School District in Stockton, the Los Angeles Times reports. The daughters' stepfather, Chris Rosa, told the outlet that Angela was "great with kids" and was recently the maid of honor in her sister Evita's wedding. He added that the Quitasols were "the most kind, most loving people I've ever met — I'm not just saying that because they're family. The way they interacted with anyone they came across, they were wonderful."
"They were outstanding girls," he said.
Port City Roller Girls, a Stockton-based derby league that Angela played in, wrote a touching tribute on Facebook. "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.
"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," they finished.
The boat fire broke out while all but five crew members were asleep Monday night. Those who were awake managed to jump ship and seek refuge on a nearby boat called the Grape Escape. No passengers are expected to survive the fire, authorities said. On Monday, 20 bodies (11 female and nine male) were recovered and brought back to the coroner's bureau, Santa Barbara County's Sheriff-Coroner Bill Brown said at a press conference Tuesday.
An additional four to six bodies were seen by search divers although the positioning of the sunken boat made them unable to reach the victims by nightfall.
Authorities have not yet identified the victims, though Brown said that a majority were from Santa Cruz, San Jose and the Bay Area.0comments
Search and rescue efforts have stopped, as diving teams now turn their focus to recovery missions, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester said.
Photo credit: Mario Tama / Staff / Getty