Updated: After posting this story, Hale Mahaolu Issued a statement saying they have heard from 22 residents. Three have died, four have been reported missing and the company has been unable to reach another four. 

Officials have now identified two of the fire victims as being missing residents of Hale Mahaolu Eono, a 34-unit senior housing development in Lahaina. 

Buddy Jantoc, 79, and Virginia Dofa, 90, are among five people named so far by public officials. Joe Schilling’s family told ABC News that he lived at the building and they believe he died trying to rescue neighbors.

Families have been desperately searching for information about residents of the complex, who would have struggled to escape the flames without assistance. Four kupuna, including Louise Abihai, June Anbe and Alfie Rawlings, have been reported missing.  

The nonprofit that manages the development — along with two other complexes that burned in Lahaina and 14 others across Maui County — issued a press release on Wednesday saying that “all staff members and most tenants are safe” but did not respond to a request for information about how many tenants lived at the complex and how many the nonprofit has been in contact with. 

On Thursday, after this story was first published, they issued a release saying 22 residents were accounted for, including the resident manager. In addition to the three residents whose deaths have been confirmed by family members or county officials, four seniors have been reported missing and the company has been unable to reach another four residents.

Alfie Rawlings, left, celebrating his 80th birthday with daughter Shirley Mcpherson and her husband. Rawlings is one of several residents still missing from Hale Mahaolu Eono. (Courtesy: Shirley Mcpherson/2023)

Hale Mahaolu Eono was an independent living facility, which means it did not have the same requirements to evacuate residents as a nursing home would have had.

“Hale Mahaolu Eono residents prepare their own meals, plan their own activities and are not required to report their whereabouts to staff,” the press release said.

Although it is not required to help tenants get to safety, the nonprofit had brought in transportation and evacuated residents in past incidents.

In a timeline provided Thursday, Hale Mahaolu said that between 7:30 and 8 a.m. on the morning of the fire, staff members knocked on every door in the complex “alerting tenants to the situation, encouraging them to be ready to evacuate themselves.”

That residents were told to prepare to leave on their own contradicts other communications received by families of the missing, which made it appear that management was going to help.

At 7:46 a.m., June Anbe, one of the missing seniors, called her niece to let her family know about the fire.

“I try call your mom to tell her we have to evacuate from here, I think. I don’t know what time,” Anbe said in the voicemail. “They going take us someplace else. OK? Bye, Terri.”

A timeline from Hale Mahaolu of efforts to alert residents of the fire ends at noon, when the resident manager evacuated the building. (screenshot/Hale Mahaolu)

A few hours later, the county declared the fire was contained.

“We got word that the fire was 100% contained and the residents that were evacuated from the area that the fire was in were able to return to their homes. At this point there was nothing that needed to be done,” a housing manager at the complex identified only as “Sherri” wrote in a text thread with a family member of a missing relative that was shared with Civil Beat.

The building’s resident manager, who is usually available during off-hours when other staff members are no longer on duty, returned to the building between 9 and 10 a.m., Hale Mahaolu said in the Thursday press release.

Around 11:30 a.m., area became very hot and smoky, according to Hale Mahaolu.

At that point, however, the initial fire had been declared contained and it was hours before the fire spread to the buildings surrounding the complex.

According to the timeline, the resident manager reported seeing four tenant tenants talking outside and invited them into his unit. Shortly after that, he decided to evacuate and “encourages the four residents to leave with him. All four decided not to leave with him,” according to the press release. By noon the resident manager and his wife evacuated the property.

It’s unclear from the release if any of the staff who would normally have been working during the day were still on the property after the resident manager left after 12 p.m.

In the text exchange released to Civil Beat by one of the families, the woman identified as the housing manager said: “Unfortunately the evacuation happened so fast that I was not able to get back to the property. The resident manager was unable to check in every unit as the smoke and heat was to intense.”

Multiple families told Civil Beat they received no warning that the situation had become dangerous again in the afternoon.

The press release issued Wednesday said the company has been working hard to provide help — including financial aid and housing support — to displaced residents of the three impacted complexes in Lahaina, but a spokesperson for the public relations company hired by the nonprofit could provide no details on what aid has been provided thus far. 

The number provided on the press release to call for assistance is the same number that families say they have been calling unsuccessfully for more than a week. After the press release was issued, one of the families was able to reach someone at the number, but said they were able to provide little information beyond what was in the release.

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