Families of those lost in highrise fire grieve — and search for answers
MOILIILI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Relatives of the three people killed in Friday's highrise fire are opening up about their devastating loss.
Phil Reller, a pastor at Pearl City Community Church, said he's overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and aloha for his younger brother and mother.
"People just telling us that the island grieves with us, there's not much you can say or do in this situation, but to have that support is such a comfort," he said.
Britt Reller, 54, and Melba Dilley, 87, didn't make it out in time as the flames ripped through their 26th floor unit at the Marco Polo condominiums Friday.
Reller said his brother had just returned back home to Hawaii that same morning after a two-week vacation around the mainland.
He was scheduled to go back to work at Hawaiian Airlines that afternoon.
"He was taking a nap, took a shower and then boom," said Reller.
In his final moments, Reller said Britt could't locate their mother.
He called his co-worker, who in turn, called Reller to deliver the horrifying news.
"He was under the bed and he said the smoke is getting bad and then they lost phone contact with him," Reller said.
Reller rushed to the scene from his Pearl City office.
"I went down and watched and cried and prayed," he said.
Meanwhile, just a few doors down, 71-year-old Joann Kuwata was also killed in the blaze.
Her niece, Dawn Dunbar, told Hawaii News Now she was a retired dental assistant and lived a simple life.
She lived alone at the Marco Polo building for the past 20 years.
"She was a very private and caring person who really kept to herself," said Dunbar. "She didn't do a whole lot. She was content watching her Korean soap operas."
Kuwata is survived by three sisters and two brothers.
"Everything was so unexpected and I think for our family we're in disbelief and we're trying to cope with the loss," Dunbar said.
Twelve others were injured in the fire and at least a dozen units were completely destroyed.
While the families await official autopsy reports, plans are being made for memorial services.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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