‘She was beautiful’: Family mourns the loss of Alabama woman killed in Maui wildfires

Carole Hartley was found dead on her property in Lahaina, Maui, according to her sister, Donna Hartley. (SOURCE: WALA)
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 11:40 AM HST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA/Gray News) - An Alabama woman was reportedly killed in the catastrophic wildfires in Maui.

Carole Hartley was found dead on her property in Lahaina, Maui, according to her sister, Donna Hartley. Hers is one of over 90 lives lost in the wildfires, and officials warn the death toll could rise even more.

“My husband called me to the living room and said Donna Jo, you need to come in here and watch the TV. He said, ‘Maui is on fire,’” Donna Hartley said.

Donna Hartley flipped on her television to a chilling sight.

“I hadn’t talked to anybody, I hadn’t seen anything, I hadn’t been on Facebook, I knew nothing,” she said.

A few seconds into the broadcast, Donna Hartley realized the video on her screen came from the exact location of her younger sister in Lahaina.

“And I walked it up on the TV, I said, ‘This is how you get to Carole. She is four blocks up, take a left and she is the fourth house on the left. It’s gone. Her house is gone,’” she said.

Donna Hartley frantically tried to call her sister and her sister’s partner, Charles, but to no avail.

A friend from the island finally reached out to her to inform her of the bad news.

“She told me they found Charles, but he was all burnt,” she said.

Charles called Donna Hartley soon after to update her on her sister.

“He called me, and he couldn’t talk to me at first because he was emotional. He said I can’t find Carole. I can’t find Carole. I can’t find her and I’m not going to stop until I find her,” Hartley said.

Donna Hartley said Charles told her he and her sister were told to seek shelter from “hurricane winds,” but they had no idea what was coming for them. As they prepared for the winds, a neighbor across the street began yelling for help as a fire broke out near her home.

Donna Hartley said Charles tried to navigate his way back to their home, but smoke clouded his vision.

Eventually Charles collapsed, and someone took him to the hospital.

When Charles realized Carole Hartley was missing, he formed a search party. He found what he believes were her remains at the ashes of their property.

“He found her by her watch that she had on,” Donna Hartley said.

Hartley said another body was found, too. Charles told her it was likely a friend that had been living with them for years.

As Donna Hartley grapples with the loss of her sister, she’s ensuring Carole Hartley’s legacy isn’t extinguished.

“You ask me to tell you what I would like people to remember Carol as … well, she was beautiful. She had charisma, she was feisty, she was funny,” Donna Hartley said.

Both of the Hartleys grew up in Grand Bay.

“She went to school at Mobile County High in Grand Bay. She had a lot of friends, she’s very cordial, all about helping the underdog or helping people. She was more about helping people than even taking care of herself,” Hartley said.

Carole worked at Marriot in Mobile, Alabama, before she transferred to another Marriot in California. Eventually she moved to Hawaii.

“Marriot was going to open up a new hotel in Maui. She worked there for twenty-something years. She’s been in Maui 40 years,” Donna Hartley said.

Carole Hartley met her loving partner, Charles, in Maui.

“They’ve been together 23 years,” Donna Hartley said. “Charles is a diesel mechanic, a well-known diesel mechanic. He worked on all the yachts and so forth out on the island.”

Donna Hartley said the bond with her sister never broke, even with a distance of over four thousand miles.

“We do a lot of communication virtually. We talk two to three times a week,” she said.

Donna Hartley said her could hardly contain her excitement when family visited her from Grand Bay.

“She has taken them to Ohana, all over Maui, took them out to a luau, she just entertained them. She was a great hostess to people that she knew,” she said.

Donna Hartley said her sister’s zeal for life was unmatched and it didn’t wane with age.

“She became a scuba diving instructor, she surfed, she worked with the Special Olympics. She had several kids with Down Syndrome kids that she sponsored. She saw them on a regular basis. That woman could move around most men. She was very strong,” Donna Hartley said.

A GoFundMe has been launched to support the Hartley family during the tragedy.