17-Year-Old Girl Celebrating Her Birthday Among Victims of California Boat Fire
The teenager was aboard the Conception with her parents when it erupted in flames in the early hours of Monday.
A 17-year-old girl who was celebrating her birthday was among those to perish on the diving boat that caught fire off the coast of California.
The teenager was aboard the Conception with her parents when it erupted in flames in the early hours of Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Two other passengers were also reportedly celebrating birthdays.
So far, 25 people have been confirmed dead, but as many as 34 people are feared dead following the fire on the 75-foot vessel, which was anchored off Santa Cruz Island, south of Santa Barbara.
Among them is diving expedition leader, 41-year-old marine biologist Kristy Finstad, and the boat's cook and deckhand, Michael Kohls.
A family of five was also perished on board the boat, local media reported. Hospital officials and relatives said that siblings Evan Quitasol, Nicole Storm Solano Quitasol and Angela Rose Solano Quitasol were on board the Conception when it went up in flames. Their father, Michael Quitasol, and his wife, Fernisa Sison, were with them, according to the reports.
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.
The fire broke out while passengers were sleeping. Video taken aboard the Conception on an earlier trip reveals tight, cramped conditions in the passengers' quarters below deck. In the dark it would have been impossible to find a way out.
A harrowing mayday call to the Coast Guard was made around 3:15 a.m. The caller said he could not reach the passengers to save them.
"There are 33 people on board the vessel that's on fire. They can't get off?" asked the dispatcher. "And there's no escape hatch for any of the people on board?"
As the boat burned, five people managed to jump to safety. Two suffered leg injuries. Another boater, Bob Hansen, was nearby and rescued them on his vessel, the Grape Escape.
"The five of them jumped off the boat in their underwear," he told Inside Edition.
He said the crew members told him they couldn't reach the passengers.
"When they opened the door into the galley it was all on fire and that roof tiles were falling off the ceiling already," he said. "They couldn't get there. And I asked, 'Is there another exit?' and he said, 'Yeah, it was at the back but it was already engulfed in flames.'"
The search for victims was suspended on Tuesday afternoon.
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