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MPD releases identities of 8 more victims; death toll remains 115

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  • GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                A Hawaiian Electric Co. lineman tended to a power line in Lahaina on Aug. 16, following the deadly wildfire of Aug. 8.

    GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A Hawaiian Electric Co. lineman tended to a power line in Lahaina on Aug. 16, following the deadly wildfire of Aug. 8.

  • GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Electrical transformers and utility lines and poles at the corner of Honoapiilani Highway and Kapunakea Street were set to be replaced in Lahaina on Aug. 16.

    GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Electrical transformers and utility lines and poles at the corner of Honoapiilani Highway and Kapunakea Street were set to be replaced in Lahaina on Aug. 16.

UPDATE: 8:15 p.m.

Maui County has released a validated list of the names of 388 people who have been reported unaccounted for after the Aug. 8 Lahaina wildfire disaster.

County officials say the names are being provided to the public in an effort to help identify anyone who can be accounted for.

The list was compiled by the FBI deemed validated as long as they included the first and last name of the person and a verified contact number for the person who reported the individual.

The Maui Police Department is asking for the public’s help in providing information on anyone on this list who can be accounted for.

To view the list online, visit www.mauinuistrong.info/unaccountedfor.

MPD said if you recognize a name on the list and know the person to be safe, or if you have additional information about the person that may help locate them, please contact the FBI at (808) 566-4300 or HN-COMMAND-POST@ic.fbi.gov immediately.

“We’re releasing this list of names today because we know that it will help with the investigation,” Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said in a news release Thursday evening. “We also know that once those names come out, it can and will cause pain for folks whose loved ones are listed. This is not an easy thing to do, but we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make this investigation as complete and thorough as possible.”

If you believe an individual is still unaccounted for and their name is not included on the validated list of names, please email unaccounted@mpd.net and provide MPD with any information on that person.

5:15 p.m.

The Maui Police Department released the identities of eight more victims of the Aug. 8 Lahaina wildfire, however the total number of confirmed fatalities remains 115.

The eight victims, all of Lahaina, are: Todd Nakamura, 61; Bernard Portabes, 75; Tony Takafua, 7; Salote Tone, 39; Faaoso Tone, 70; Maluifonua Tone, 73; Bette Jo Dyckman, 73; and Rebecca Rans, 57.

Of the 115 confirmed fatalities, 35 have been identified and their families notified, while 11 have been identified but their families have not been located or notified, MPD said this afternoon.

Maui County reported the Olinda fire is 85% contained and consumed an estimated 1,081 acres. A helicopter was deployed before sunset Tuesday to help reach hot spots.

The Kula fire remains 85% contained and consumed an estimated 202 acres. MFD crews have been extinguishing hot spots in the Kula fire using hand crews and a helicopter. Fire activity is mostly located in hard-to-reach gulches. Flareups and reports of smoke have been well within the burn area, and have not posed any threat to public safety or fire expansion.

The Lahaina fire remains 90% contained and consumed an estimated 2,170 acres. There have been no noteworthy flareups in recent days.

The Pulehu/Kihei fire was declared 100% contained on Aug. 12.

3 p.m.

Maui County sued Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. and its subsidiaries, including Maui Electric Co., today, alleging that the company’s negligence led to the deadly Aug. 8 fires that destroyed much of Lahaina.

The lawsuit in Second Circuit Court alleges Hawaiian Electric and its subsidiaries acted negligently by failing to turn off power to their electrical equipment despite a National Weather Service “red flag warning” issued Aug. 7, the day before the wildfires exploded.

The lawsuit also claims Hawaiian Electric’s energized and downed power lines ignited the fires by sparking dry grass and brush. The lawsuit also accuses Hawaiian Electric of failing to maintain its systems and power grid, leading to three different Maui fires on Aug. 8.

“This destruction could have been avoided,” the lawsuit said.

In response, Hawaiian Electric officials said in an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Our primary focus in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy has been to do everything we can to support not just the people of Maui, but also Maui County. We are very disappointed that Maui County chose this litigious path while the investigation is still unfolding.”

Hawaiian Electric is a for-profit, investor-owned utility that trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. It serves 95% of Hawaii electricity customers on every main island except Kauai.

So far the death toll from the Lahaina fire remains at 115. The fires in Lahaina and Kula burned over 3,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,200 structures — most of them residences — and caused an estimated $5.5 billion in damage.

The county lawsuit is in addition to a host of civil suits against Hawaiian Electric, including one also filed today on behalf of the company’s stockholders.

Bloomberg News reports that Hawaiian Electric Industries was sued by investors after the utility’s share price was pummeled in the wake of the Maui fires.

Despite knowing the threat that wildfires posed to Maui, the utility’s compromised safety protocols put the island at a heightened risk, according to a lawsuit filed today in San Francisco federal court.

The lawsuit appears to be the first securities fraud lawsuit that focuses on the impact on investors rather than island residents. Bloomberg reported that similar to other suits against the company, it also blames Hawaiian Electric for failing to maintain a plan to cut electricity off in areas where strong wind events could cause the fires to spread.

The omissions contributed to the “precipitous decline in the market value of the company’s securities,” the investors claim, adding that they suffered “significant losses and damages” as a result. The utility’s share price has plunged 69% since July 26.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed alleging that Hawaiian Electric’s power lines contributed to the fires that destroyed much of Lahaina. Until today, the suits have been property damage and wrongful death claims based on arguments the utility kept power on despite high-wind warnings, and that it didn’t follow through on safety upgrades for its equipment.

The lawsuits allege the utility’s internal files show officials were aware power shutdowns could have helped avoid wildfires, but failed to implement them.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

The state Supreme Court this morning denied a petition by the Board of Land and Natural Resources claiming a judge’s ruling prevented enough water from being available to fight the Upcountry wildfires.

In its brief order denying the petition, the court said state attorneys failed to establish “a clear and indisputable right to the relief requested.”

Justices on Wednesday afternoon heard oral arguments on the petition, which claimed the actions of Environmental Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree hampered efforts to fight the fires that destroyed some 19 homes and blackened thousands of acres.

In its petition, the board was aiming to move a dispute over the use of East Maui water forward and overturn the June decision by Crabtree authorizing East Maui stream diversions to 31.5 million gallons of water per day, a reduction from the 40 million gallons per day authorized by BLNR.

During the hearing, a Maui County attorney told justices there was enough water to battle the wind-whipped flames.

The fires that started in Olinda and Kula on Aug. 8 continue to burn and remain 85% contained with only hot spots left, officials said Wednesday.


Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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