A preliminary report on the cause of the fire could reportedly be released within 10 days, though a final report could reportedly take two years

By Rachel DeSantis
September 04, 2019 05:03 PM

Search teams have recovered 33 bodies in the aftermath of the diving boat fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, California, leaving one person still missing.

Coast Guard Lt. Zach Farrell said all but one of those left seemingly trapped by flames onboard the 75-foot Conception early Monday have been recovered as of Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.

The update comes one day after Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner Bill Brown said that 20 bodies — 11 female and nine male — had been brought back to shore. At the time, he said divers had spotted between four and six more, but had been unable to reach them due to the position of the sunken vessel.

DAVID MCNEW/Shutterstock


The search for the last victim carried on into Wednesday morning, when about a dozen divers with the FBI gathered at Santa Barbara Harbor, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Our priority is trying to find the last victim and also items that would be of interest to find out what happened,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Lt. Brian Olmstead told the outlet. “You want to bring closure to the families.”

The Times reports a probe into the cause of the fire led by 16 investigators was launched Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board. A preliminary report could reportedly be released within 10 days, though a final report could take two years.

RELATED: Search and Rescue Efforts in California Boat Fire Suspended as Officials Focus on Recovery

Authorities in Santa Barbara, California

Thirty-nine people — 33 passengers and six crew members — were aboard the Conception when it erupted into flames just after 3 a.m.

All but five crew members — the only ones not asleep below deck — are believed to have perished in the fire. The surviving group, which included the vessel’s captain, managed to escape by taking refuge in a nearby boat called the Grape Escape, which they reached on a dinghy.

Brown said at a press conference on Tuesday that the sleeping area’s two exits, a stairwell and an escape hatch, were most likely blocked by fire.

RELATED VIDEO: Mayday Audio Raises Questions About Circumstances in Dive Boat Fire — Were Passengers Trapped?

Authorities have not yet identified the victims, though Brown said the process is “underway,” and that officials will be using DNA to make positive identifications with the help of family members.

Several of those family members have come forward to remember their loved ones, including Evita Olson, who lost three of her sisters: Evan Michael Quitasol Solano Quitasol, Nicole Storm Quitasol and Angela Rose Quitasol.

Quitasol sisters

“The biggest thing for me is that on August 17 my sisters were in my wedding,” Olson told BuzzFeed News. “Angela was my maid of honor. She sang me a song for her maid of honor speech. Everything was so normal then…and now they’re just gone.”

The sisters were traveling with their father, Michael Storm Quitasol, and stepmother, Fernisa Sison, to celebrate Michael’s birthday when disaster struck, BuzzFeed reported. The Los Angeles Times reports a 17-year-old girl traveling with her parents also celebrated a birthday on board.

The sisters’ mother, Susana Solano Ross, confirmed that three of her daughters were missing in a heartbreaking Facebook post on Tuesday.

Nicole Quitasol

“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,” she wrote.

The daughters’ loved ones and former employers also confirmed their suspected deaths in a series of GoFundMe pages arranged for the family.

Angela, the youngest of the sisters, worked as a middle school science teacher with the Lincoln Unified School district in Stockton, according to the Times.

Angela Quitasol

She also skated with the flat track derby league Port City Roller Girls, which remembered her in a touching Facebook tribute.

Evan, the eldest of the group, worked as a nurse at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, California.

Hospital officials confirmed Evan’s death in a statement to PEOPLE, writing, “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 healthcare company told PEOPLE.

The Quitasol sisters with family


“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.”

Middle daughter Nicole, 31, lived in Coronado near San Diego and worked in the city as a bartender at Nicky Rottens Bar and Burger.

“She was the kind of person you met once and felt like you were related to her,” her boss Bryn Andrew told PEOPLE.

Other victims include students from Pacific Collegiate School, a Santa Cruz charter school for grades 7-12.

RELATED: Family of 5 All Feared Dead After Tragic California Diving Boat Fire: ‘Our Hearts Are Broken’

“While this was not a school sponsored trip, our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the victims and those yet missing, particularly of those of our students and parents on board,” the school said in a statement.

KSBW reports that two students and one of those student’s parents were on the boat.

Fremont Unified School District also announced a loss on Facebook, writing that Raymond “Scott” Chan, a physics teacher at American High School, was among the victims.

Brown said a majority of those who perished were from Santa Cruz, San Jose and the Bay Area.