UC Merced student missing after Oakland fire identified as victim of fire

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Investigators released the identities of two more of the 36 victims. However-- there are still seven who have not been named which includes a UC Merced student. The family said the Coroner's Officer reached out to them confirming that she is one of the victims.

Days after flames tore through this Oakland warehouse Anna Mendiola held out hope. Pleading on TV and social media for her sister-in-law, Jennifer Mendiola, to come home.

"Every time someone walked in I thought it would be her, you know. And every time the phone rang I thought, oh it's her."

But as hours passed-- that hope dwindled. On Sunday, Jennifer's car was found nearby and Wednesday afternoon, the coroner's office identified her.

Her family said they are comforted knowing she did not suffer.

"It was seconds before the floor collapsed and she was covered by a carpet, protected by a carpet, and within 15 seconds was unconscious from smoke inhalation," said Mendiola.

Jennifer was a PH.D. student at UC Merced where she studied psychology and had several publications to her name. Her colleagues called her a passionate and determined scientist-- to her family, she was a beautiful soul trying to make a change in this world.

"I have never seen anyone work as hard as she did. She was very intent on helping people who were in pain," said Mendiola.

The family said while their grief feels insurmountable-- first responders helped make their grim wait a little more bearable. As they all hurt, and maybe one day, heal together from this massive tragedy.

"The mayor, the sheriff and deputies, the firefighters, the coroners and all the first responders-- I'm telling you they ate and slept even less than us. They worked relentlessly, and we thank them so much, we could not have survived this without them," said Mendiola.

The university is holding a vigil for Mendiola Monday at noon in front of the library.

Jennifer's family issued a statement saying, "On behalf of Jennifer Mendiola's loved ones I would like to express our deeply profound gratitude to the Coroner's Bureau, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the Oakland Fire Department, the Red Cross, the sheriff and fire department chaplains, the mental health counselors and other volunteers and a special thanks to Oakland's wonderful major, Libby Schaff. These people have surrounded us with support and compassion. They have worked tirelessly to keep us updated and answer our questions. They hugged us, held our hands, prayed and witnessed unbearable grief."
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