CNN

Hawaii officials identify the last of the 100 known victims of the wildfire that destroyed Lahaina

Jan 29, 2024, 5:30 PM

FILE - Photos of victims are displayed under white crosses at a memorial for victims of the August ...

FILE - Photos of victims are displayed under white crosses at a memorial for victims of the August 2023 wildfire, above the Lahaina Bypass highway, Dec. 6, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Hawaii officials said Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, that they have identified the last of the 100 known victims of the wildfire that destroyed Lahaina in August of last year. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson, File)

(AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson, File)

HONOLULU (AP) — The last of the 100 known victims of the wildfire that destroyed Maui’s historic town of Lahaina in August was identified Friday as a 70-year-old woman whose husband, sister and several other relatives also died in the fire.

Maui police said they identified the victim as Lydia Coloma based on the context of where the remains were found, rather than through DNA or other positive identification methods.

Her husband, along with a sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, also died in the fire, said her sister-in-law, Tina Acosta, in Honolulu. Coloma was from the Ilocos Sur province in the Philippines, Acosta said, adding that she didn’t know why the final identification took so long.

“We were waiting,” she said.

Identifying those who perished in the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century has been a long, arduous process. Forensic experts and cadaver dogs have had to sift through ash searching for bodies that were possibly cremated, and authorities collected DNA samples from victims’ family members.

The DNA testing allowed officials in September to revise the death toll downward, from 115 to at least 97. The toll rose slightly over the next month as some victims succumbed to their injuries or as police found additional remains.

The number of those who remain unaccounted for has also fallen — to just a few from a previous high of nearly 400, according to the Maui Police Department. Coloma was on the unaccounted-for list before her official identification as a victim. Three people remain on the list.

The victims ranged in age from 7 to 97, but more than two-thirds were in their 60s or older, according to Maui police’s list of known victims. Several were residents of a low-income senior apartment complex.

Authorities began reopening the burn zone last fall to residents and property owners who lost homes while urging returning residents not to sift through the ashes for fear of raising toxic dust.

This month, crews started clearing debris from residential lots. The waste is being wrapped in thick industrial plastic before the Army Corps of Engineers takes it to a temporary storage site south of Lahaina.

The disaster devastated Maui and Hawaii more broadly. Caught in a hellscape, some residents died in their cars, while others jumped into the ocean or tried to run for safety.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. It may have been sparked by downed power lines that ignited dry, invasive grasses. An AP investigation found the answer may lie in an overgrown gully beneath Hawaiian Electric Co. power lines and something that harbored smoldering embers from an initial fire that burned in the morning and then rekindled in high winds that afternoon.

The blaze destroyed more than 2,000 buildings, most of them homes, and is estimated to have caused $5.5 billion in damage.

Nearly six months after the blaze, about 5,000 displaced residents were still living in hotels or other short-term accommodations around Maui. Economists have warned that without zoning and other changes, housing costs in already expensive Lahaina could be prohibitively costly for many after rebuilding.

___

Associated Press reporter Audrey McAvoy contributed.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

CNN

Soldiers carry the coffin of Ukrainian poet and serviceman Maksym Kryvtsov who was killed in action...

Stephanie Halasz and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Zelensky warns ‘millions will be killed’ without US aid to Kyiv, as Ukrainian troop deaths reach at least 31,000

“Millions” could die in Ukraine’s war with Russia if US lawmakers don’t approve President Joe Biden’s $60 billion aid request.

9 hours ago

Kathy Brandel and her husband of 27 years, Ralph Hendry...

Sharif Paget, Chris Boyette and Polo Sandoval, CNN

Family of Americans believed dead after yacht allegedly hijacked in Grenada describe scene of violence

The family of two Americans who may have been killed in an alleged yacht high jacking in Granada hope the couple might be found alive.

10 hours ago

Police tape drapes the crime scene on a trail behind Lake Herrick at the University of Georgia in A...

Ashley R. Williams, Raja Razek, Priscilla Alvarez, Isabel Rosales and Jaide Timm-Garcia, CNN

Questions remain in investigation of death of Augusta University student found on UGA campus

As the investigation continues into the death of an Augusta University student, officials confirmed the immigration status of a suspect.

11 hours ago

Kenneth Mitchell, here in 2018, has died....

Megan Thomas, CNN

Kenneth Mitchell, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Marvel’ actor, dead at 49

A native of Canada, Mitchell acquired more than 50 film and television credits over the course of his acting career. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2019.

1 day ago

Charles E. Escalera, 21...

Michelle Watson and Maria Sole Campinoti, CNN

Kentucky man arrested in connection with death of Campbellsville University student

A man has been arrested in connection with the death of a student at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.

1 day ago

Former President Donald Trump walks on stage during the 2024 NRB International Christian Media Conv...

Fredreka Schouten, CNN

Wisconsin ethics panel recommends criminal prosecution for a Trump fundraising committee

A Wisconsin ethics panel is recommending that prosecutors pursue charges against one of Donald Trump’s fundraising arms.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Hawaii officials identify the last of the 100 known victims of the wildfire that destroyed Lahaina