Maui wildfire victims include man found shielding beloved pet dog, local know as 'Uncle Joe'

On Tuesday, the county released the names of two victims: Lahaina residents Robert Dyckman, 74, and Buddy Jantoc, 79.

ByMorgan Winsor ABCNews logo
Thursday, August 17, 2023
1st Maui wildfire victims identified as crews search for more
Devastating wildfires that erupted on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 8 have claimed the lives of at least 106 people.

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Devastating wildfires that erupted on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 8 have claimed the lives of at least 106 people while many more remain missing, according to authorities.

Officials on Maui have repeatedly warned that the death toll is expected to rise as they work to contain the active blazes and assess the damage.

Here's what we know about some of the victims.

Franklin Trejos, 68

Franklin Trejos is seen here in an undated file photo.
Courtesy Shannon Weber-Bogar

Franklin Trejos, 68, died in the historic town of Lahaina on Aug. 8, his friend Shannon Weber-Bogar confirmed to ABC News.

Trejos, who was originally from Costa Rica, had been living for several years with Weber-Bogar and her husband, Geoff Bogar, at their home on Maui. When the inferno began in Lahaina, Trejos and Bogar stayed behind to try to save the house and help their neighbors, Weber-Bogar said.

Eventually, Trejos and Bogar tried to escape in separate cars. Bogar's car wouldn't start, so he broke a window to get out and was later rescued by police and taken to a local hospital. The next day, Bogar returned to find Trejos' remains inside another car on top of their beloved dog, a 3-year-old golden retriever named Sam, according to Weber-Bogar.

Trejos' niece Kika Pérez Grant told ABC News that her uncle, whom she called "Frankie," was a "huge animal lover" and would always think of others before thinking of himself.

"And so even in his very last moments, he thought to protect," Pérez Grant said.

"He was just a loving man. He was a free spirit, he was an adventurer, a nature lover, an animal lover, an artist," she added. "He was just a great person to be around. Energetic, he had so much gusto."

Pérez Grant also recalled her uncle's great smile and love for chocolate milk.

"He was such a wonderful human," she said. "The best uncle, brother and friend."

Trejos was very close to his older sister, Pérez Grant's mother, who has been living with stage 4 breast cancer. He always worried about her and "checked in on her quite often," according to Pérez Grant.

"She never imagined losing her brother," Pérez Grant said of her mother. "She always thought she would pass first."

Trejos would have turned 69 in September.

"This has been a tragic and heartbreaking loss for our family," Pérez Grant told ABC News "To know that he must have been so scared or to imagine him suffering, there are no words."

Carole Hartley, 60

Carole Hartley is seen here in an undated file photo.
Courtesy Hartley Family

Carole Hartley, 60, died in Lahaina on Aug. 8, her sister Donna Hartley confirmed to ABC News.

Carole's body was found by her longtime partner Charles on their property there. The couple were separated as they tried to flee the flames, Donna said.

Charles told Donna that he and Carole were about to get in their truck when it exploded in front of them. He said he told Carole to "run" and he thought she was in front of him running but he never saw her again, according to Donna.

Charles survived but suffered third-degree burns. He returned to their property on Aug. 12 to find human remains alongside Carole's watch and dental bridge, Donna said.

"It has to be her remains," Donna told ABC News. "Nobody else has been at our house."

Donna, who lives in Alabama, said she has struggled to sleep ever since and has been having nightmares.

"I have dreams my sister is on fire," she added.

Donna described her sister as a "beautiful" person. Carole would have turned 61 later in August.

"She had a heart of gold and she cared about other people more than herself," Donna said. "She was always that way."

Joe Schilling, 67

In an undated photo, Joe Schilling, 67, is seen on a golf course in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Courtesy of Bill Schilling

Joe Schilling, 67, is believed to have died in Lahaina on Aug. 8, his family and friends confirmed to ABC News.

Schilling hasn't contacted his loved ones since the wildfire broke out in Lahaina that day. His family and friends said they believe he most likely died in the blaze, so they are working with authorities to submit DNA samples.

Based on accounts from those who interacted with Schilling on Aug. 8 as well as text messages he sent to a friend that afternoon, Schilling's loved ones believe he chose to stay behind at his apartment complex, Hale Mahaolu Eono, with several elderly residents who were unable to evacuate due to mobility issues.

In texts to his friend Corie Bluh, reviewed by ABC News, Schilling said there were "multiple houses on fire right across from me" and that he "can't leave can't see."

"We are trapped can't see a thing plus when u try to breath it burns ur lungs," he wrote.

"Breathing through wet towels," he added. "6 of us in one unit."

Schilling also sent photos to Bluh showing a nearby home on fire with thick smoke billowing into the air. In his last text message, Schilling warned: "Cars parked on the road now exploding."

Schilling had lived on Maui for the last 25 years and became known as "Uncle Joe." He met Bluh through her late husband at work years ago. When Bluh's husband, who she said suffered bouts of mental illness, took to to the sidelines of parenting, Schilling stepped in to mentor and help raise their five children.

"We were not the only people that knew him as Uncle Joe," Bluh told ABC News. "His name tag at work was Uncle Joe because he was just that guy that was there for everybody."

Schilling's pronounced role with the Bluh family and the larger community in Maui came as no surprise to his younger brother, Dan Schilling.

"His life, I would describe it with two words: It was selfless and without convention," Dan Schilling told ABC News.

"What Joe did allowed these people not to die alone," he added. "That's the great gesture he did that he sacrificed himself for."

Buddy Jantoc, 79

In an undated photo, Buddy Jantoc, center, is seen with his granddaughter Keshia Alakai and her husband.
Courtesy of The Family of Buddy Jantoc

Maui County and and the Maui Police Department confirmed that 79-year-old Lahaina resident Buddy Jantoc was among those killed in the wildfire.

Jantoc's granddaughter, Keshia Alakai, told ABC News that he lived at Hale Mahaolu Eono, a senior housing complex, but was very independent and still able to drive. To Jantoc, "his family and his music was everything," Alakai said.

Jantoc is survived by two sons as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, according to Alakai.

Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, Salote Takafua, and her son, Tony Takafua

A family of four -- Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, Salote Takafua, and her son, Tony Takafua -- died while attempting to flee from the flames. Their remains were found Thursday in a burned car near their home.

"The magnitude of our grief is indescribable," read a statement from family members.

Lylas Kanemoto, who knew the Tone family, confirmed the devastating news Sunday.

"At least we have closure for them, but the loss and heartbreak is unbearable for many. We as a community has to just embrace each other and support our families, friends, and our community to our best of our abilities," Kanemoto told The Associated Press by text message on Sunday.

Kanemoto is still awaiting news on her cousin, Glen Yoshino, who is missing.

"I'm afraid he is gone because we have not heard from him and he would've found a way to contact family," Kanemoto said. "We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst."

Robert Dyckman, 74

Maui County and and the Maui Police Department confirmed that 74-year-old Lahaina resident Robert Dyckman was among those killed in the wildfire.

Melva Benjamin, 71

The Maui Police Department confirmed that 71-year-old Lahaina resident Melva Benjamin was among those killed in the wildfire.

Virginia Dofa, 90

The Maui Police Department confirmed that 90-year-old Lahaina resident Virginia Dofa was among those killed in the wildfire.

Alfredo Galinato, 79

The Maui Police Department confirmed that 79-year-old Lahaina resident Alfredo Galinato was among those killed in the wildfire.

ABC News' Peter Charalambous, Sasha Pezenik, Alyssa Pone, Stephanie Wash and Jennifer Watts contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.