25 bodies from boat fire off coast of Calif. found

Thursday, 05 Sep, 2019

The mother of Allie Kurtz, 25, told U.S. media her daughter was among the dead. There are 33 people still unaccounted for. The boat had burned down to the water line, Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason said.

Evan Quitasol has been described by friends and family as a nurse at at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton, where Michel and Sison had worked after reportedly attending nursing school. We held a prayer gathering in our Chapel this morning to offer comfort and support to our hospital family.

"She loved the outdoors, loved animals, loved and lived by the sea", Rosas said of Nicole, who lived in the beach resort town Coronado.

A total of 39 were on board, officials said.

In the aftermath of the devastating fire aboard the 75-foot-vessel, authorities are still trying to determine what may have caused the blaze.

A GoFundMe page has been created for the Quitasol family.

Rescue workers said Tuesday they have recovered the bodies of 20 people killed in a middle-of-the-night fire aboard a dive boat off the coast of Southern California, while continuing to look for 14 more people feared dead.

Early Monday morning, the vessel was anchored off Platts Harbor on the north side of Santa Cruz Island, a popular Southern California dive site.

"There were several other victims that were seen by the divers - between four and six - that are still between the wreckage, but due to the position of the boat they were unable to be recovered before nightfall", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told a news conference. "Were they awake? Did they even wake up?" he said.

The Conception is now underwater near Santa Cruz Island, about 90 miles (145km) west of Los Angeles. All five were crew members on the Conception.

Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason told CNN that rescuers had not given up on finding survivors.

Captain Rochester said that call indicated the boat was already fully ablaze.

Officials said DNA was needed for positive identification of the 11 female and 9 male victims recovered so far, a lot of them residents of the Santa Cruz and San Jose area, authorities said. "We know this is a very hard time for family and friends of the victims".

"The majority were from the Santa Cruz, San Jose, Bay Area region", Brown said.

The Conception was built in Long Beach in 1981, according to the company's website, and offered a below-deck sleeping area with 20 single bunks and 13 doubles, to accommodate up to 46 people.

And the Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz announced that two of its students, Berenice Felipe and Tia Salinka, were on the boat with Salinka's parents, according to NBC News.

"It is never an easy decision", said Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester.

The fire broke out at around 3:15 a.m. local time as almost all of the 39 passengers and crew on board were asleep below deck.

A crew member who perished was believed to have been sleeping below deck with the passengers. Two had minor injuries, Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said.

Truth Aquatics, which owns the Conception, could not be immediately reached by PEOPLE.

"Nothing in the [mayday] broadcast from the vessel. indicated there was an initial explosion", he said. Brown said the blasts could have been exploding scuba tanks or propane tanks.

Officials searched for survivors, but all are now presumed dead. Nitrox - a mix of pure oxygen and air - may also contribute, as it is flammable and can "turn a spark into a raging blaze", according to The Los Angeles Times.

Actor Rob Lowe tweeted that he had been aboard the vessel many times.

His wife said Truth Aquatics crews have always been meticulous in going over safety instructions at the beginning of every trip she's been on. They told the couple they fled when the fire grew out of control.