Hawaii wildfires: Here’s what we know about the victims

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Hawaii destructionGetty Images

An avid musician, two loving grandmothers, and an inspiring father are among the five victims of the devastating Hawaii wildfires identified and named by Maui officials.

At least 111 people have died and authorities have warned the number of dead could climb significantly and even double over the next 10 days.

Officials say identifying those lost in the wildfires is expected to be painstakingly long.

Before families had been notified, they spent days posting on social media in hopes of finding loved ones.

Here’s what we know so far about those who have been identified.

Buddy Jantoc

Buddy Jantoc (in the centre) with his family

Family of Buddy Jantoc

Buddy Jantoc, a 79-year-old Lahaina resident, was an avid musician.

His eldest granddaughter, Keshia Alakai, told a local ABC station that “his family and his music was everything” to him.

His family said he toured on the US mainland with Carlos Santana, percussionist Pete Escovedo and guitarist George Benson. Dubbed “Mr Aloha”, he would play bass guitar at hula competitions. His flat, filled with instruments, resembled a music store.

Mr Jantoc lived at Hale Mahaolu Eono, a low income senior housing complex. He was legally blind and had difficulty hearing.

The family started to worry when they did not hear from him. Ms Alakai told The New York Times “I had a bad feeling”.

“I’m hoping he was asleep,” Shari Jantoc, his daughter-in-law, told the newspaper. “I hope to God he did not suffer.”

Mr Jantoc is survived by two sons, multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Melva Benjamin

Melva Benjamin

Family of Melva Benjamin

Before authorities identified 72-year-old Lahaina resident Melva Benjamin as one of the victims, her family and friends had been posting a “missing” photo of hers and her boyfriend on social media.

Her daughter-in-law, Janell Benjamin, shared photos of Ms Benjamin with her grandchildren, writing on Facebook: “Can someone please wake me up from this nightmare…still holding on to hope.”

Ms Benjamin was last seen evacuating her home.

Her granddaughter, Tufalei Makua, announced they were informed of her death on Tuesday afternoon.

Online tributes have poured in. Friend, Bernadette Garces Kaai, wrote “thank you for the memories and beautiful heart”.

Alfredo Galinato

Alfredo Galinato

Joshua Galinato/GoFundMe

Alfredo Galinato was reported missing since 9 August, a day after the deadly blaze swept through the historic town of Lahaina.

His son, Joshua Galinato, posted pictures seeking information about the 79-year-old Lahaina resident.

“We are still searching for my father and hoping for his safe return,” he wrote.

Mr Galinato’s last known location was the family’s home, which along with his vehicle, went up in flames, according to his son.

A GoFundMe page for the family now says: “We are grateful to finally hear about our father’s remains but saddened that he has not joined us in safety.”

Mr Galinato’s other son, John Galinato, posted a tribute on Thursday saying: “I love you and I thank you for everything you did for the family you are inspiration.”

Virginia Dofa

Virginia Dofa, of Lahaina, was a 90-year-old grandma. On 10 August, Jona Arafiles shared a post on social media requesting people to get in touch if they see “Grandma Virginia Dofa”. The County of Maui and Maui Police Department confirmed she was one of the wildfire victims.

Robert Dyckman

Robert Dyckman was a 74-year-old resident of Lahaina. His name was released by The County of Maui and Maui Police Department.

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