Honolulu high-rise fire that left 3 dead ‘was like a horror movie’ to residents
HONOLULU — A Hawaiian Airlines in-flight manager called his brother as smoke filled his 26thfloor apartment in Honolulu before he and his mother lost their lives in the blaze, the man’s brother said.
Pearl City Community Church Pastor Phil Reller told the Honolulu StarAdvertiser that police confirmed that two of the three victims killed in the blaze Friday are his mother and brother.
Reller told the newspaper he received a call from his brother, Britt Reller, 54, saying he had been taking a shower when he smelled the smoke. He rushed out but was unable to get to their 85-year-old mother, Melba Jeannine Dilley. He had crawled under a bed and wasn’t heard from again, his brother told the newspaper.
Britt Reller had worked as an in-flight manager for Hawaiian Airlines for two years. In an emailed statement to the Associated Press on Saturday, Robin Sparling, vice president of in-flight services at the airline, said Reller “was a talented manager and caring co-worker and we will miss him terribly. Our hearts are with Britt’s brother, Phil, and his entire family.”
The fire broke out in a unit on the 26th floor, where all three of the dead were found, Fire Chief Manuel Neves said.
The building known as the Marco Polo residences is not required to have fire sprinklers, which would have confined the blaze to the unit where it started, Neves said. The 36-floor building near the tourist mecca of Waikiki was built in 1971, before sprinklers were mandatory in highrises. It has over 500 units.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city needs to look at passing a law requiring older buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers.
Karen Hastings was in her 31st-floor Honolulu apartment when she smelled smoke. She ran out to her balcony, looked down and saw flames five floors below her.
“The fire just blew up and went flying right out the windows,” the 71-yearold Hastings said of the first moments of the highrise blaze. “And that was like a horror movie. Except it wasn’t a horror movie. It was for real.”
The flames drove her and a neighbor to run down 14 floors until they found a safe stairwell to get some air, Hastings said.
The building is vast and wave-shaped, and it has several sections. The blaze was mostly confined to a single section. Only the units immediately above it and to the side of it were evacuated, while many residents stayed inside.
Most evacuations went calmly and smoothly, security guard Leonard Rosa said. The fire department said Saturday morning most residents will be allowed to return home, but the 26th to 28th floors will remain closed because of extensive fire, water and smoke damage to about a dozen apartment units.
A Honolulu Fire Department helicopter flies near the blaze that burned out of control on the 26th floor of the Marco Polo apartment complex Friday in Honolulu. “The fire just blew up,” one resident recalled.