Exclusive—Maui Resident: More Than 450 Bodies Allegedly Recovered from Wildfire and ‘Lot of Kids’ Still Missing

Maui search crews have allegedly found over 450 bodies, according to a local resident who is leading a grassroots relief effort to aid victims of the fire that decimated the town of Lahaina earlier this month.

“I guarantee you right now, from what has been seen, the number is over 450 and it’s gonna get — it’s gonna get closer to 1,000,” Maui resident Dale Hermo-Fernandez, who has close contacts inside local recovery efforts, said in a recent exclusive interview with Breitbart News.

“They’re not giving the number until they toe-tag them and identify them, which is understandable,” he said. “It’s guaranteed in the four hundreds. More than likely you’re going to get to 850 or 900 — with 40 percent being kids,” he said.

He said he did not want to discuss the children too much, out of respect for parents holding out hope.

“What I’m telling you right now is there’s a lot of kids. There’s a lot. There’s so much. And that’s the thing right now. The real disaster hasn’t even happened to the fullest,” Hermo-Fernandez said.

“Right now, we’re all in this void of hope. We’re in this void of hope. We have parents hoping that the kids are on the other side [of the island], they’re hoping that the kids would run through a safe person’s home and we just can’t just get a hold of them. So there’s a little bit of hope,” he added.

Benny Caluya holds a stack of flyers of his 98-year-old aunt, Louise Abihai, who has been missing since the Maui wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, on August 20, 2023. (Mengshin Lin for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“But the truth of the matter is, I’ve been in [Lahaina]. There is no hope. There’s — I’ve seen kids in there. I’ve seen — you know, it’s, there is no hope.”

Hermo-Fernandez said that on the day of the fires, before they had spread in Lahaina, school had been called off due to power outages. His cousin had brought his kids with him on his way to work on the other side of the island that morning, dropping them off at his father’s house.

“But a lot of people didn’t do that. A lot of kids were home because the school got called out because there was no electricity. And when there’s no electricity, they can’t feed the kids lunch and breakfast. So they keep them home, which makes sense. But they got called out and parents went to work and the kids were at home by themselves,” he said.

He described what he has seen in Lahaina.

“Whole families are lost — huddled in cars hugging each other. This is firsthand. Like a husband and wife hugging each other on Front Street in the car.  It’s bad. It’s so bad. I don’t want to get too far into the kids and all that, out of respect for the families,” he said.

A cat walks by a burned car in a neighborhood that was destroyed by a wildfire on August 18, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

“When it starts coming out, it’s going to be heartbreaking. It’s going to be a disaster once these parents find out there’s no hope. That’s when the crying really sets in and starts,” he said.

Breitbart News reached out to Maui Police Department to confirm the number of bodies found, but did not immediately receive a response.

So far, Maui authorities have only announced 115 dead, with 100 percent of the area searched.

Maui County last Thursday released the names of 388 individuals who are unaccounted for, but that is only those whose first and last names were known, and with a verified contact reporting them unaccounted for. Officials say that number will fluctuate. Others have been reported unaccounted for whose names have not yet been verified.

“The 388 names are a subset of a larger list,” Steven Merrill, a special agent from the FBI’s Honolulu field office, said at a press conference. “I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we still have hundreds of other names where we still need more information.”

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said that some of the dead may never be found or identified.

“This is the honest answer. We are doing everything we can to recover as much as we can of a human being as possible,” he said, comparing it to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where more than 1,100 of the dead remain identified.

Hermo-Fernandez believes that if there had been more search and recovery personnel on the ground sooner, more lives could have been saved.

“The [Maui Police Department] did it by himself for the first few days. Three, four or five days, then I think I saw the FBI come in on the fifth day, when they could have sent the best guys — they should have been on the plane the day after the fire,” he said.

He said some people were still hunkered down injured in Lahaina in homes that did not burn. “Four days later, they found a lady still alive — a 70-year-old lady still alive,” he said.

He said those who perished were the children and the elderly.

“People like me that could run, made it. People like my age — like, the middle age — they could make a move,” he said. One of the younger survivors his group helped tried to carry his aunt, who had recently had a stroke, to safety.

“He had her on his back, running out. And he had to put her down. He was on fire himself and he held her until his clothes caught on fire. And she died.”

Follow Breitbart News’s Kristina Wong on Twitter, Truth Social, or on Facebook. 


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