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San Diego resident among family of 5 killed in Southern California boat fire

Nicole Quitasol worked as a bartender at Nicky Rottens in Coronado. She and her sisters were on the trip to celebrate their dad's birthday

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego resident who works at Nicky Rottens in Coronado and four of her relatives were among the passengers on a boat that caught fire off Santa Cruz Island, the restaurant confirmed Tuesday.

Nicole Quitasol, 31, was identified as one of the passengers aboard the Conception sleeping below deck when the fire started early Monday.

Nicole’s broken-hearted mother, Susana Rosas of Stockton, California, thanked people for their prayers and support.  

Rosas posted on her Facebook page Tuesday that her three daughters, their father and his wife were among those presumed dead after flames engulfed a dive boat off Southern California over the holiday weekend.

RELATED: The Conception: Officials say boat victims became trapped by fire

Rosas posted that her three daughters — Evan, Nicole and Angela Rose Quitasol — were with their father Michael Quitasol and stepmother Fernisa Sison.

Evan Quitasol was a nurse at St. Joseph's Medical Center of Stockton, where her father and Sison had worked after attending nursing school at San Joaquin Delta College.

Sison also worked at the college teaching first-year nursing students full-time in 2005 and 2006 and later as an adjunct instructor, according to the school's spokesman, Alex Breitler.

RELATED: Couple rescues crew members from deadly Channel Islands boat fire

RELATED: A closer look at the Conception's safety record

Nicole Quitasol worked at Nicky Rottens Bar and Burger Joint in Coronado for four years, according to Bryn Butolph, the restaurant's CFO. Butolph began a GoFundMe crowdfunding page Tuesday with the blessing of Quitasol's mother, Susana Solano Rosas, to raise funds for the family's funeral costs.

"I asked if she wanted to talk to anybody, news-wise, and she obviously just can't handle it," Butolph said. "She said 'just take every call you can and get my daughter's story out there.' And that's what we're doing."

Butolph said that although they're "torn apart," staff members asked to avoid closing the restaurant to celebrate Quitasol's life as a group. Her regular customers have also come to the restaurant to remember her.

"We are missing a huge chunk of our team. [She] loved the outdoors. Loved the ocean. Loved her dog. Loved her family here," Butolph said. 

"People want to listen to music and have beer and talk about her. So I guess that's the one silver lining that we've got so far, you know, they all want to be together and hang out and we're happy to provide a safe space for everybody to mourn together."

The sisters were on the trip to celebrate their dad's birthday, Chris Rosas said. He described them as "the most kind, most loving people I've ever met — and I'm not just saying that because they're family."

Domanic Selda, who is the sisters' step-brother, said he is still trying to make sense of the tragedy and the fact that five members of his family are gone. 

"Evan, she was the oldest and loved to dive with her dad. Nicole, she was amazing and good hearted. Angela, she was a teacher who affected so many kids lives. What happened? Why did it happen? Where they awake? Did they even wake up?" 

Also below deck were students from Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz. School director Maria C. Reitano declined Tuesday to say how many students went on the trip, which was not sponsored by the school.

Brett Harmeling of Houston said that his sister Kristy Finstad, 41, was leading the scuba tour off Santa Cruz Island, part of California's Channel Islands.

Other victims included students from a Northern California charter school serving grades 7-12, and a marine biologist who owned the diving company and was leading the tour.

Five crew members were rescued, and the bodies of 20 victims have been recovered so far. Many need to be identified by DNA analysis, and officials are collecting samples from family members.

U.S. Coast Guard officials ended their search for survivors Tuesday. Authorities said they had recovered 20 bodies as of Tuesday morning, and between four and six more were seen in the sunken

The GoFundMe page read: 

"Nicole has worked with our Nicky Rottens Coronado family for years, and she will be remembered as an adventurous & loving soul. Our hearts are broken and we can't imagine the pain her family feels, so with the blessing of her mother Susana Solano Rosas, we have setup this fundraiser to help with the funeral costs of all 5 family members."