The death toll now stands at 106, and more coroners are on their way to assist in the identification of the victims from recovered remains.
I recently reported that the lawyers investigating the cause of apocalyptic Maui wildfires think the blaze resulted from damaged equipment owned by Hawaiian Electric.
Now a video from a resort worker has surfaced that seems to corroborate that assertion.
Shane Treu, 49, filmed flames coming from a wooden power pole that snapped under high winds early Aug. 8 — just hours before the wildfire that has killed more than 100 people was confirmed as taking hold in now-devastated Lahaina.
“I heard ‘buzz, buzz’ … It was almost like somebody lit a firework,” the resort worker recalled of the live line sizzling and popping on dry grass outside his home.
“It just ran straight up the hill to a bigger pile of grass and then, with that high wind, that fire was blazing,” he said.
“In a matter of minutes, that whole place was just engulfed.”
Treu filmed three Facebook Live videos from about 6:40 a.m., starting with him trying to battle the blaze with a hose and then warning arriving emergency services about the live power line in the road.
A neighbor also captured additional film.
Treu’s neighbor, Robert Arconado, also recorded videos that he provided to the AP. Arconado’s footage, which starts at 6:48 a.m., shows a lone firefighter headed toward the flames as they continued to spread west downhill and downwind along Lahainaluna Road, toward the center of town.
By 9 a.m., Maui officials declared the fire “100% contained,” and the firefighters left. But about 2 p.m., Arconado said the same area had reignited.
A video he filmed at 3:06 p.m. shows smoke and embers being carried toward town as howling winds continued to lash the island. Arconado continued to film for hours, as towering pillars of flame and smoke billowed from the neighborhoods downhill, forcing people to jump into the ocean to escape.
“It was scary, so scary,” Arconado said. “There was nowhere to go. … I witnessed every single thing. I never go to sleep.”
The death toll now stands at 106, and more coroners are on their way to assist in identifying the victims from recovered remains.
Search and recovery crews using cadaver dogs had scoured approximately 30% of the burn area by Tuesday, officials said. The number of canine teams was increasing to more than 40 because of the difficulty and scope of the operation, FEMA said. The dogs need to rest frequently because of the terrain and heat.
Searchers combing through the ashes found some of Lahaina’s most vulnerable residents, including children, among the victims. Gov. Josh Green said this week that teams found a family of four killed in a charred car and the remains of seven family members inside a burned-down house.
Dr. Robert Mann heads the Forensic Science Academy at the Central Identification Laboratory in Oahu, Hawaii, and is set to head to Maui on Thursday to help in identification efforts. He indicates the identification process for some victims could take years.
John Pelletier, the Maui police chief, said on Tuesday that only around a third of the devastated area of Lahaina had been searched, and the governor of Hawaii, Josh Green, has said he expects an additional eight to ten bodies to be found every day for at least the next week.
Cadaver dogs flown in from California and Washington are assisting the search, and relatives of the 1,300 missing have been asked to provide DNA samples.
…’Every single case, every individual, every decedent is unique – they were unique in life, and they’re unique now,’ [Mann]said.
‘And we just have to figure out what is going to be the magic piece of that science that’s going to end in identification.’
Mann said personal items such as wedding rings or objects in a person’s pockets can provide clues.
But DNA is often the most useful, especially for burns victims – even though DNA found in bones that have been burned are contaminated.
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