Fire set at family dinner in PR claims 4th victim

A fourth person died early Wednesday from a New Year's attack in which police say a Puerto Rican man using kerosene and a propane tank set fire to more than a dozen of his family members and a visiting U.S. woman as they sat down for dinner.

Jesus Sanchez, the fiance of 25-year-old Kate Donahue of Seattle, died at Centro Medico hospital, family friend Justin Stein told The Associated Press. Stein said Donahue would be flown Wednesday morning to the burn unit at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Burn Center in Miami.

The recently engaged Seattle couple had traveled to Puerto Rico so Donahue could meet Sanchez's family.

"It's a very difficult situation right now," Stein said. "There's a lot of love surrounding both families ... We can't stress enough how wonderful Jesus' family has been."

Donahue, like Sanchez, has burns on more than 80 percent of her body, hospital spokeswoman Wilmelis Marquez said.

A woman who identified herself as Naryamie Hernandez on a Facebook page set up for the couple said she was in mourning.

"It's hard to believe that the world has lost such an amazing human being. I will continue to remember you Jesus as the happy person you were from our days in high school," she wrote.

The mother of the man suspected of carrying out the attack, 45-year-old Justino Sanchez Diaz, also died of her injuries on Tuesday, Marquez said. Earlier, a 17-year-old niece and a 32-year-old cousin of Sanchez Diaz died. The suspect is the uncle of Donahue's fiance.

Donahue's family flew to Puerto Rico shortly after they got the news, Austin Martin, a friend of Donahue's who is a pastor in Arizona, said in a telephone interview.

"They've been able to see her, but she's been put in a medically induced coma, so they haven't been able to speak with her," he said.

Friends of the couple set up a Facebook account and asked for donations to help pay for medical transport to the U.S. "It is a long road ahead to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually," states the page.

Donahue works as a nurse for Group Health, according to her Facebook page. Sanchez was a Boeing engineer, according to The Seattle Times.

Donahue's mother, Michelle Donahue, told reporters the couple was very much in love.

"Their last words before they were intubated were, 'For each other,'" she said. "She loves him. He loves her. The last six months have been the happiest time of her life."

The blaze occurred Saturday in the central Puerto Rican mountain town of Florida, where Sanchez Diaz lives in a two-story house with his parents and a sister, police Lt. Reinaldo Jimenez said.

Sanchez Diaz had doused the walls of the house with gasoline and set canisters filled with fuel under the dining room table and other furniture, he said.

"He planned the party so that everyone would show up," Jimenez said.

As soon as the 14 people sat down for an early dinner on Jan. 1, Sanchez Diaz emerged from his room armed with a 20-pound (9-kilogram) container of propane gas and then doused them with kerosene, Jimenez said witnesses told police.

Sanchez Diaz then set them on fire using a stick wrapped with a towel soaked in fuel, Jimenez said.

Heidi Robles, identified as one of the suspect's nieces, told the newspaper Primera Hora that several relatives ran out of the house on fire and that neighbors used hoses to try to put out the flames.

"He is going to pay for this," she was quoted as saying.

Police and firefighters found Sanchez Diaz in a bathroom where he had filled the tub and sink with water, Jimenez said.

Prosecutors charged Sanchez Diaz late Tuesday with his mother's death. It was unclear if he had an attorney. The phone went unanswered at the offices of Puerto Rico's Legal Assistance Association.

Sanchez Diaz has had run-ins with his family in the past, and about five years ago he set fire to a hen house in the back of his brother's home, Jimenez said.

Since the blaze, Sanchez Diaz has refused to eat or talk about a possible motive, the police officer said.

"He has maintained total silence," Jimenez said.