Shop owner who fled Lahaina with his passport and dog files latest wildfire suit against HECO

Hawaiian Electric has been hit with two more lawsuits over the Maui fires, including one from a man who lost his home and all the products for his business.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 9:24 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 3:38 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - HECO has been hit with two more lawsuits over the Maui fires, including one from a man who lost his home and all the products for his business.

Cole Millington, of Lahaina, captured video while fleeing the flames on Honoapi’ilani Highway with just his truck, guitar, passport, and dog.

He is suing Hawaiian Electric for failing to prevent the Aug. 8 fire from starting.

He also blames a HECO crew for slowing down countless people trying to escape the burning town. “I was 100, 200 yards in front of that; I’m sure people had to get out of their cars and run,” said Millington. “There were huge HECO trucks on the side of the road blocking the escape.”

“It was a chokepoint because of them. Once I got past those trucks, I was going 80 miles an hour just trying to get out, but I didn’t move for 45 minutes in Lahaina.”

Hawaii News Now asked HECO for a response, but they declined to comment.

The utility now faces at least eight lawsuits over the Maui fires.

Another suit filed on Tuesday blames HECO in part for the death of Doug Gloege, whose body was found along with that of his partner, Rebecca Rans, whose family also filed a wrongful death suit.

“My father had a love for life and a heart for all those around him; he had a personality that drew you in and made you smile; he loved Maui and called it paradise,” said Gloege’s daughter, Andrea Wheeler. “He tragically lost his life fleeing the flames and still helping others; he just didn’t have enough time. I hope we can prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

Millington’s attorney believes HECO will file for bankruptcy to minimize its financial damage.

“It’s an unfortunate use of the bankruptcy system, and that they can try to shield or minimize their total exposure in terms of what they allowed to happen,” said lawyer Andrew Van Arsdale.

“But it’s one that’s been used successfully in the past by PG&E here in California and other utilities that have faced liability at this scale.”

More than a week after the fire, Millington took video of utility poles at 45 degrees in Waiehu.

“I drive around, and I have anxiety looking at all this because it can happen again,” said Millington.

Millington is being put up by the Red Cross in a hotel right now, but he hopes to restart his Honolua Hot Sauce business eventually.

And he dreams of a day that Lahaina and its people are restored.

“I’m hoping that people that are here aren’t just placed off Island and if they have to stay in Hawaii, go to a different island and try and come back because what makes this place special is the community,” said Millington.