Seattle woman burned in Puerto Rico torch attack dies


by TONYA MOSLEY / KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on January 6, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 6 at 6:39 PM

SEATTLE -- A Seattle woman who was badly injured in a blow torch attack in Puerto Rico has died.

Kate Donahue, 25, and her new fiance, Jesus Sanchez, traveled to Puerto Rico so that Donahue could meet his family. They were at a family dinner in Puerto Rico on New Year's Day when Sanchez's uncle used kerosene and a propane tank to set fire to more than a dozen of his family members.

Donahue was flown to the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Burn Center and was in critical condition with burns on 80 percent of her body. She died Thursday, two days after Sanchez also passed away from his injuries. Three other family members also died after the attack.

Beth Karrenberg was Donahue's best childhood friend, and still can't believe it.

"It's not supposed to happen to people that you love," said Karrenberg. "This stuff happens on TV, it's just so devastating."

Several people remain in critical condition.

Kate worked as a nurse for GroupHealth and had only been there since April. Donahue's coworkers said they're devastated by the loss. They say she was like a breath of fresh air. They all looked forward to hearing her stories about her fiancé, their wedding plans and trip to Puerto Rico.

"We were all saying when she was leaving our team that, 'When you get back we want you to tell us all about it,' and she said, 'Yes I will!'" says GroupHealth coworker Joy Osaki.

Osaki and Ronda Osorio took Kate under their wings at GroupHealth. She had only worked as nurse there for eight months but she made an impression.

"She was always full of energy and she always made us feel alive again here," says Osaki.

Up until the news of her death, her coworkers were planning to donate their vacation and sick days to give Kate more paid time off to recover.

"We lived vicariously through her. We were like her moms. We love her and miss her so much," said coworker Ronda Osorio.

Police in Puerto Rico say 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.

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

A fund has been set up by Donahue's family to help pay for travel, medical, and funeral costs. Checks can be mailed to Wells Fargo, 200 B St., Santa Rosa, CA, 95401, the account number is #6174877891. Or you can go to any local Wells Fargo branch and have them call the Santa Rosa Main Branch at 707-584-3110 and they will take care of the account number details. 

More than $2,000 has been raised to help with funeral expenses.

More information can be found on a Facebook page that had been set up in support of the couple.

Thursday evening and Friday during the lunch hour, Kate's best friend Beth will be working at Red Robin in her friends memory, donating her paycheck and all of her tips to help bury one of her best friends.

"She's not in pain and she's with the man that she loves and with her father," says Beth.