Britt Reller, 54, – pictured right – called his brother as smoke filled his 26th-floor apartment in Marco Polo building in Honolulu, Hawaii
A Hawaiian Airlines in-flight manager called his brother as smoke filled his 26th-floor apartment in Honolulu before he and his mother lost their lives in the blaze, the man’s brother said.
Britt Reller, 54, alerted Pastor Phil Reller that 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. Britt – who had worked as an in-flight manager for Hawaiian Airlines for two years – had crawled under a bed and wasn’t heard from again, his brother told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
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.’
He rushed out of the burning apartment but was unable to get to his 85-year-old mother, Melba Jeannine Dilley, pictured with Britt (left), and Chelsea Harding (center), a beauty pageant titleholder in 2016
The 54- year-old called his brother, Pastor Phil Reller, (left) to tell him he was under the bed and couldn’t rescue their mom. This was the last time Pastor Reller heard from his brother
Police confirmed that two of the three victims killed in the blaze Friday are his mother and brother, he told the newspaper.
The fire broke out in a unit on Friday on the 26th floor, where all three of the dead were found, Fire Chief Manuel Neves said. Police are yet to confirm the name of the third victim.
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 high-rises. 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.
Eerie pictures from KITV show the charred remains on the 26th floor on Saturday.
The images show a hallway leading to the unit where the deceased were found.
There are puddles of water on the floor, black and grey soot covering the walls and ceilings, and burnt debris scattered about.
One photo shows the burnt entranceway to an apartment where a three-tiered table stands among the ashes and charred debris. Support beams can be seen sticking out through sunken, burnt-out walls in the entranceway. What appears to be a fire hose is shown on the floor in a large puddle of water. Another photo from a nearby apartment shows a sooty door with a large hole above the doorknob.
The fire broke out on Friday afternoon in a unit on the 26th floor, where all three of the dead were found. Pictured is the fire damage from the blaze that also left 12 injured
The building is not required to have fire sprinklers, which would have confined the blaze to the unit where it started. Pictured is the charred interior of the apartment showing the extent of the fire damage from a blaze
The 36-floor building near the tourist mecca of Waikiki was built in 1971, before sprinklers were mandatory in high-rises
Melanie Takeyama, who lives on the 7th floor, said she came into her apartment around 2 am Saturday and there was only a little bit of water inside, but when she returned later the entire apartment was soaked.
‘It was terrible, my sofa is soaked, my living room, the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen, everything is just wasted,’ she said.
Bruce Campbell, who manages an apartment on the 33rd floor, said he walked down the stairwell to where the fire started.
It ‘was a very eerie experience,’ he said. ‘When we got to 28 and looked in, it’s like a war zone in there, it’s completely burnt out.’
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.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city must assess the possibility of passing a law requiring older buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers
Some residents said they returned to soaked apartments after firefighters had put out the fire
One resident said: ‘It “was a very eerie experience” , when we got to 28 and looked in, it’s like a war zone in there, it’s completely burnt out’
Only the units immediately above the 26th floor were evacuated, while many residents stayed inside
Cory La Roe, who is from Florida and stationed in Hawaii with the Air Force, works night shifts and was asleep when sirens woke him at about 2:15 p.m.
La Roe said he didn’t hear any verbal announcements, and there were no flashing fire alarm lights in the building. But ‘after I saw people running out and went out to the hallway, I knew it was a fire alarm,’ he said.
He didn’t realize that the building didn’t have a sprinkler system and was surprised that was the case.
Gordon Kihune lives on the 13th floor of the Marco Polo apartments and has lived in the building for about 12 years. He says he hasn’t seen any fire extinguishers or hoses in the building that he can remember, and didn’t hear the alarms going off when the fire broke out.
Some residents said they didn’t hear an alarm when the fire started but only left the building upon seeing others leaving. Pictured is a man looking off his balcony at the damage left from the deadly fire
One resident even said he can’t remember seeing any fire extinguishers or hoses in the building . Pictured is a woman, who exited the Marco Polo apartment complex, placed in an ambulance as firefighters battled the blaze at the high-rise
Not one resident from the building said they remembered recent fire drills. Pictured is a Honolulu Fire Department helicopter flying near a fire burning on a floor at the complex
He said he ‘only recognized the fact that there was something wrong when I saw the fire trucks pull up, and then I poked my head out, then I could hear the alarm.’
No one from the building said they remembered recent fire drills. But Anna Viggiano, who lives on the 6th floor, said there were some after a 2013 fire that broke out two floors above her. Since then, she doesn’t hesitate to evacuate when she hears the alarm, Viggiano said.
Douglas Hesley, branch president of Associa Hawaii, the management group that runs the Marco Polo building, said in a brief statement Saturday that there will be an emergency board meeting to discuss recovery efforts.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marco Polo community,’ he said.
Hesley said he could not comment on past fire drills or safety plans that were in place at the time of the fire.
Robert Solomon of the National Fire Protection Association said high-rise building code should require an emergency plan to describe what the fire alarm sounds like and provide residents with an evacuation diagram of the closest exit to their unit.
‘The directions would say use the exit stairs and descend three or four or five levels below and then wait in a hallway,’ Solomon said in a statement.
By then, firefighters are arriving to provide additional instructions including a fire chief or command officer deciding whether to get everybody out or get people off additional floors.
The building’s owners said in a statement Saturday that there will be an emergency board meeting to discuss recovery efforts. Pictured is an evacuation bus taking residents of the to a nearby shelter
Pictured are volunteers preparing food and drinks at a school for the residents
Pictured is a paramedic checking on a woman, lying on a median, after she and others exited the apartment complex
Debris fell off a balcony during the fire as firefighters were deciding whether to get everybody out or get people off additional floors
Pictured is the smoke that billowed in the skies as the fire raged through the 26th floor