NATIONAL NEWS

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

Jan 27, 2024, 8:47 PM | Updated: 8:50 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 age of the victims varied

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.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

A local organization is keeping kids away from crime and drugs one bike at a time. (KDRV via CNN Ne...

Rocky Walker, CNN

Familia Unida: Keeping kids away from drugs and crime by teaching them to work with their hands

A local organization is keeping kids away from crime and drugs one bike at a time. Familia Unida is a nonprofit that teaches children to channel aggression and negative experiences into healthy and constructive life skills through activities such as bike and car building.

6 hours ago

FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice, on Aug. 11, 2023, in W...

Larry D. Curtis

Justice Department says Phoenix police violated rights. Here are some cases that drew criticism

Phoenix police use unjustified deadly force, discriminate against people of color and routinely violate the rights of homeless people, the Justice Department said in announcing the results of a sweeping civil rights investigation.

9 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump gestures after speaking during the North Carolina Republican Party Co...

Samuel Benson, Deseret News

Poll: Trump leads big among Utah voters; Biden, Kennedy tied

After viewing both Trump and Biden unfavorably in August, most Utahns now see Trump favorably

10 hours ago

Katia Hetter, CNN

Mosquitoes and ticks are showing up with greater frequency. Here’s how to stay safe this summer

Welcome to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, with all its fun in the sun – and little critters who want to take a bite out of you.

11 hours ago

A deer took the "Visitors Welcome" sign seriously at a church building for the Church of Jesus Chri...

Eliza Pace

Oh deer! Wisconsin church gets an unexpected visitor

A deer took the "Visitors Welcome" sign seriously at a church building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

11 hours ago

A tourist jumps from a rock into the blue-green water of Havasu Falls in Havasu Canyon, Arizona, Ap...

Scott Sonner and Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Dozens of hikers became ill during trips to waterfalls near the Grand Canyon

Dozens of tourists say they became ill after visiting a popular Arizona tourist destination known for its towering blue-green waterfalls.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

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