Family members identify two bodies found in charred Palolo Valley home

House fire in Palolo Valley, 2 people dead - Photo Courtesy: Liz
House fire in Palolo Valley, 2 people dead - Photo Courtesy: Liz
Memorial at Palolo Valley home
Memorial at Palolo Valley home
Jean-Paul Chaine
Jean-Paul Chaine

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

PALOLO VALLEY (HawaiiNewsNow) - A large family is in mourning after firefighters discovered the bodies of two loved ones in a charred home in Palolo Valley Monday.

Fire officials say the layout of the property made the fire fight and the body recovery challenging.

Family and friends say the elderly man and woman who died were not married, but had been together for a quarter of a century. The 91-year-old woman leaves behind eight children, and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Julia Rezentes would have turned 92 next month. Family members say she was still very energetic, and enjoyed family get-togethers and traveling to Las Vegas.

Her long-time companion, Bobby Souza, was a retired military man in his 70s.

Raging flames ripped through their house with such speed that neighbors say there was nothing they could do.

"I couldn't approach the house," Jean-Paul Chaine, neighbor, said. "I noticed laundry hanging, t-shirts and stuff. By the time I turned quickly, it was gone. The laundry just shoo."

"I live right next door," a neighbor, who would only identify herself as Erin, said. "I was the one that had a hose on the house."

"The pine trees in the back ignited," Chaine said. "It just shot up like a firecracker."

The fire broke out in the three-bedroom house on Lai Road just before 6:30 AM, and spread to a vacant structure on the same property. The lot is on a downward slope, which created a challenge for fire crews.

"We attacked it from two sides," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said. "Firefighters went through a driveway of a home on 10th Avenue, crossed over a stream to get to the back side of the house."

Hours later, thick smoke continued to rise from the rubble.

"The house has substantial damage to the point where it's partially collapsed, making extinguishment, complete extinguishment difficult," Seelig said.

Family members of Julia Rezentes, 91, gathered at the site and waited for word on their matriarch and her companion of some 25 years, Bobby Souza.

"They understand the difficulties," Seelig said. "They're hoping that we can get in there to do a search as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible."

Rescue specialists were called in to get up on ladders and shore up the rear portion of the house.

Four hours after the fire began, crews discovered a body in the back right bedroom. A second body was found outside that bedroom about 15 minutes later.

Family members broke down in tears upon hearing the news.

"There's very little chance of survival with the amount of fire that was present when we arrived," Seelig said.

Investigators will continue their efforts to find the cause of the fire on Tuesday. The flames left an estimated $400,000 in damages to the two structures and their contents.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.