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Searching for the missing on Maui, some wait in agony to make contact. And then the phone rings

by Michael Nguyen
5 comments
fokus keyword: Maui fire

While searching for missing relatives on Maui, some people experienced excruciating agony as they waited to make contact. When the phone finally rang, relief washed over them.

Leshia Wright, a 66-year-old Lahaina resident, was well aware of the approaching inferno that threatened her home. Realizing it was time to flee, she quickly grabbed her pulmonary disease medication and her passport, and made her way out of her historic oceanside community, only minutes before the flames overtook it. After settling in her car for the night, she managed to call her family, but then her phone battery died.

The next 40 hours were filled with torment for her New York-based daughter and Arizona-based sister. However, relief came early Friday morning when Wright called to assure them she was safe.

“I’m obviously relieved beyond words that my mother is alive,” exclaimed Alexandra Wright, sharing that her mother had finally been able to charge her phone after reaching an unharmed friend’s house on a minimal amount of gas.

The firestorm’s devastation led to a desperate quest by hundreds of people to find their loved ones, some of whom were thousands of miles away. Many were still searching, but amidst the tragedy, fortunate reunions brought moments of joy and comfort.

Kathleen Llewellyn of Bardstown, Kentucky, frantically dialed her 71-year-old brother, Jim Caslin, who had lived in Lahaina for 45 years. Her numerous attempts were met with voicemail until she finally received the call: “I’m fine.”

Caslin’s escape was fraught with challenges, including heavy traffic, road obstructions, and a flat tire. When he finally found a gas station, Llewellyn broke down in tears.

Similarly, Sherrie Esquivel was desperate to locate her 74-year-old father, a retired mail carrier in Lahaina. From her North Carolina home, she added her father’s name to a missing person’s list and endured an agonizing wait. She eventually received a call informing her that he was safe at a shelter but had lost everything.

Later, she discovered that her father had survived by hiding behind a seawall for hours. Upon hearing this, she recalled his days in Vietnam, imagining how his PTSD and survival instincts might have resurfaced. Firefighters eventually rescued her father and others from the burning city.

Esquivel’s emotions were mixed with love and frustration, particularly over her father’s refusal to own a cellphone. When interviewed at a shelter, her father became emotional, admitting that he owned a flip phone but didn’t know how to use it.

Reporters Thiessen and Komenda contributed to this story from Anchorage, Alaska, and Tacoma, Washington, respectively.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword: Maui fire

Where did the firestorm take place?

The firestorm occurred in the historic oceanside community of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Who were some of the individuals affected by the fire?

Leshia Wright, Kathleen Llewellyn, Jim Caslin, Sherrie Esquivel, and Thom Leonard were among the individuals affected by the fire.

How did some people manage to survive the fire?

Some survivors, like Thom Leonard, managed to escape the inferno by hiding behind structures such as seawalls, while others fled their homes before the flames engulfed their neighborhoods.

What emotions did family members experience during the search for their loved ones?

Family members experienced a mix of emotions including agony, anxiety, helplessness, relief, joy, and even anger during their desperate search for their loved ones.

How did family members try to find their missing relatives?

Family members utilized phone calls, missing person’s lists, and other means of communication to locate their missing relatives, with some even working from thousands of miles away.

What were some of the challenges faced by those trying to escape the fire?

Challenges faced by those trying to escape included bumper-to-bumper traffic, road closures, downed trees and power lines, and punctured tires.

Did everyone manage to get in touch with their family members?

The text highlights several successful reunions but also mentions that hundreds of people were on a desperate search, indicating that not everyone may have found their loved ones.

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5 comments

Kathy Williams August 13, 2023 - 4:31 pm

I teared up reading about Leonard and his daughter. Such strong ppl out there. Love the way human spirit shines through even in the worst of times.

Reply
John Smith August 13, 2023 - 6:23 pm

I cant believe what’s happening in Maui, it’s just heartbreaking. my prayers go out to all the families involved.

Reply
Mike Thompson August 14, 2023 - 1:04 am

wow, this is intense! I used to visit Lahaina every year. never thought something like this could happen there. Stay strong people.

Reply
Tim Johnson August 14, 2023 - 2:23 am

Just read this article. it’s really making me think about how precious family is, and how quicky things can change. Stay safe out there.

Reply
Sara O'Connor August 14, 2023 - 3:15 am

This story really touched my heart. the reunions must’ve been so emotional. But what about the others who are still searching? It’s too much to bear…

Reply

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