Elderly man, daughter found dead following Waipahu house fire

Hawaii News Now 4:30 a.m. Waipahu Fire
Neighbor Eileen Soneda
Neighbor Eileen Soneda
Randy Tokita (center, in foreground)
Randy Tokita (center, in foreground)
HFD Captain Terry Seelig
HFD Captain Terry Seelig

An elderly man and his daughter were found dead in Waipahu early Tuesday morning after a fire destroyed a home on Apowale Street, according to the Honolulu Fire Department.

Fire officials say they received multiple emergency calls regarding the blaze at 12:45 a.m. and immediately dispatched a second alarm, sending several units to the scene at 94-415 Apowale Street.

By the time the first company arrived at 12:53 a.m., the front of the home was fully engulfed in flames, and some 40 firefighters worked to battle the fire.

"It was a major fire," said Honolulu Fire Department Captain Terry Seelig. "The attack was what we call a defensive attack, from outside using large streams of water."

Firefighters also had to use special foam to suppress the huge flames.

"Once we were able to get the fire knocked down, we could go in to do the search."

Firefighters were able to get the fire under control by 1:20 a.m. When investigators entered the home, they discovered the bodies of a man in his seventies and a woman in her fifties. The cause of death for the two is still under investigation.

Neighbors at the scene identified the man who was killed as Haruki Tokita, the home's owner. Witnesses say Tokita was known to be caring for his mentally challenged adult children and believe the woman who was found dead was his daughter.

Eileen Soneda has lived across from Tokita in Waipahu Gardens for more than 50 years.

"I was shocked," said Soneda. "I can't believe Mr. Tokita and the daughter passed away. It's unbelievable."

Soneda said that for more than 50 years Tokita –a widower –cared for his three adult children, who were all mentally challenged. Soneda said Tokita's wife died two decades ago, and she believes another daughter may reside at care home.

"They never bothered anyone," Soneda remarked. "And Mr. Tokita never asked for help. You know, he endured all the pain."

The deaths are likely the first fire-related fatalities of the year, according to fire officials.

"If these are fire fatalities, they would be the first two of the year on Oahu," said Capt. Seelig.

Around 6 a.m., firefighters helped remove the bodies from the home. They are now in the care of the Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office, which will determine the official cause of death. In the meantime, the Honolulu police and fire departments are conducting separate but coordinated investigations.

Tokita's son Randy escaped from inside the home and was pulled away to safety by police officers, then taken to a hospital for evaluation, according to paramedics.

"He was actually pulled to safety, not from the house, but from the yard. He was out in the yard, before we arrived, and the police officer actually pulled him out of the way of the fire," Seelig added.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

"This is a coordinated effort with police and fire departments, so it will take a while," said Capt. Seelig. "It's a process that is going to be very detail-laden.

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