Fil-Am dad, daughters presumed dead in Santa Cruz Island boat fire

Victims of the Conception dive boat fire (L-R): Evanmichael Solano, Angela Rose Quitasol, Michael Quitasol, Fernisa Sison, Nicole Storm Quitasol. Christina Quitasol, far right, was not aboard the boat.

A Filipino American family was among the dozens of people aboard a boat that erupted in flames near Santa Barbara, California over the Labor Day weekend.

Twenty-five bodies have been located as of Wednesday, September 4, while nine are still unaccounted for, including Filipino Americans Michael Quitasol, his current wife Fernisa Sison, and Quitasol’s daughters from a previous marriage: Evan Quitasol, Nicole Storm Solano Quitasol and Angela Rose Solano Quitasol, the daughters’ mother confirmed on Facebook.

“It is with a broken heart … 3 of our daughters were on this boat. As of now they are still missing,” the girls’ mother, Susana Solano Rosas, posted on Facebook. “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.”

Evan Quitasol is a nurse at the St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, California (where her father and step-mother also worked), which released a statement saying it is “saddened” to learn that one of their own was involved and while no deaths in the family have been confirmed they are “mourning this great loss.”

Diving boat fire on Monday, Sept. 2 | Photo courtesy of Ventura County Fire Department

On Monday, September 2, the 75-foot scuba diving vessel called the Conception was anchored about 20 yards away from Santa Cruz Island caught fire at around 3:15 a.m., according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Emergency services responded to the scene quickly with firefighters battling the blaze as the ship sank 64 feet, officials reported.

Five crew members of the Conception were able to escape the destruction by jumping overboard after which a nearby good Samaritan rescued them; one of the escapees suffered a broken leg.

The identities of the victims found dead have not been released and it may take a while before authorities can identify them due to the condition of the bodies.

“This is probably the worst-case scenario you could possibly have. Fire is the scourge of any ship,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. “You couldn’t ask for a worse situation.”

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, and officials said it appears to be accidental, but an official investigation is underway.

Families and friends who are seeking information about loved ones who may have been on the Conception are encouraged to call (833) 688-5551. A family assistance center is being established at Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara. For information, call (805) 696-1188.

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