While the vast majority of the more than 100 people killed during the Maui wildfires last week have yet to be identified, tributes and condolences to a handful of people who have been named as relatives continue to wait to learn if their friends or family are safe. Maui officials said 111 perished in the blaze that roared through the historic town of Lahaina. Many of the victims so far are adults over the age of 65, who face two times the risk of dying in a fire than younger people, according to the US fire administration.
The deadliest blaze in recent US history has raged through the island causing millions of dollars in damage and an incalculable amount of pain and trauma as Maui locals begin to parse through charred structures to find what’s salvageable, and what is not. Search crews continue to scour the ruins of Lahaina and ocean waters for the dead. Here are the stories of how some of those who died in the fire lived.
One of the victims, Buddy Jantoc, is remembered by his family and fellow community members as a kind man with a love for music, his family and culture. Jantoc, 79, was a drummer and guitar player who relatives said toured with Carlos Santana. More recently he was a fixture at community events, where he played his instruments as hula dancers swayed, according to KITV, Hawaii’s ABC affiliate.
Jantoc was living in a housing complex for seniors when the fires erupted.
“My papa was older, but for him to be taken from us that way, I think that’s what’s the hardest to come to terms with.” Keshia Alaka’i, Jantoc’s granddaughter told KITV. “He was a good man, a good grandpa, he used to tell me, ‘I’m going to go to Honolulu and see my grandchildren and my daughter. I cannot wait.’ Whatever time he had with his family, he treasured it.”
Jantoc’s family and friends have been posting tributes to him and condolences to his loved ones on a Facebook page set up in the musician’s memory.
Jantoc was one of the first fire victims identified by Maui officials.
Others who perished include Franklin Trejos, who was found deceased and lying on top of the remains of his beloved dog Sam. Trejos stayed in Lahaina to rescue other residents and help save his friend Geoff Bogar’s house. As the flames got closer to Bogar’s residence on Tuesday 10 August, the pair tried to escape. Bogar was found crawling under the smoke by police who took him to the hospital, but Trejos did not make it out.
Trejos had lived with Bogar and his wife Shannon Weber-Bogar for years and helped Weber-Bogar manage her seizures when her husband couldn’t, the Associated Press reported.
“God took a really good man,” Shannon Weber-Bogar told the outlet.
Melva Benjamin, a 71-year-old resident, was also killed during the wildfire. Her family had been using social media to solicit help in the search for Benjamin and her boyfriend Ed Sato, who were trying to escape the flames and head to a shelter, according to a Facebook post from Benjamin’s granddaughter.
The family of Virginia Dofa put responsibility for the 90-year-old’s death on the emergency systems on the island that “failed our loved ones”, Dofa’s granddaughter wrote on a Gofundme set up to help relatives, some of whom lost their homes in the recent wildfires.
Lahaina locals are also mourning the loss of a surf and scuba instructor named Carole Hartley, who was found in her backyard by her boyfriend. The 60-year-old Alabama native is being eulogized on Facebook and remembered as a free-spirited beach-lover.
“Carole lived life out loud with full self expression of love for humans and animals,” reads a comment posted by Jenna Mahini, who donated to a Gofundme set up for Hartley’s partner Charles Paxton. “I feel grateful to know her and be loved by her. May her memory be a blessing to all who love her.”
Condolences are pouring in to the loved ones of a family of four that were killed in the Lahaina wildfires. They were Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, their daughter Salote Takafua, and her seven-year-old son, Tony Takafua, according to news reports and a Gofundme page organized to help the Tone’s daughter and her husband Saane and Kevin Tanaka. The couple are sheltering more than a dozen other people who escaped the fires, according to the Gofundme page, which was created by a relatives.
The family died in their car near their home in Lahaina while trying to flee the catastrophic flames, according to Hawaii news now.
“Words cannot express how devastating this is for the family, many who have lost everything,” the fundraising page reads. “Kevin and Saane had no time to grieve. They are now sheltering the rest of the family who was able to evacuate in time in their own home … Top-of-mind worries include necessities such as food, water, and clothing, and essential utilities such as electricity and water.”
Donna Gomes, 71, was described as the “backbone” of her family, said a Gofundme page honoring the lifelong Lahaina resident, organized by Tehani Kuhaulua, Gomes’s granddaughter. Gomes, whose 72nd birthday would have been on 15 August, was born and raised in Lahaina and enjoyed sharing her childhood stories with her grandchildren, nieces and nephews, according to a Facebook post by Kuhaulua.
“As she tried to flee from the wildfires that were sweeping through beloved Lahaina she lost her life on Lahainaluna road,” she wrote. “Ask anyone who knew her or knew of her, she had a very strong, independent will about her, the biggest heart full of tough love.”
Joe Schilling, another Lahaina resident, perished while helping senior citizens escape a housing complex as flames surrounded them, according to a Gofundme page created by Schilling’s niece, who described the 66-year-old as, “caring, outgoing, funny, easygoing, joyous, and loving”.
Schilling’s sister, Penny Schilling, remembers her brother coming to her aid in the final two weeks of her late husband’s life, she recalled in a 14 August Facebook post.
“His presence and assistance was invaluable. He had the hugest heart and was ever ready to assist anyone in need without expecting anything in return. His final act of kindness, which cost him his life, was the culmination of a lifetime of little acts of kindness,” she wrote.
After days of searching and with “heavy hearts” Alfredo Galinato’s family announced his passing, on a Gofundme page, organized by Joshua Galinato, Alfredo’s son. Galinato, 79, died while trying to save his family’s home of 30 years in Lahaina. Joshua said that this move was one that was characteristic of his father.
“He tried his best to fight it, but you can’t mess with that,” Joshua Galinato told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “Every time there’s a fire in Lahaina, he’s staying in Lahaina, holding down the fort.”
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