By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Fire engulfs one of three homes destroyed by
the blaze this morning in Palolo.

7 killed in Palolo fire

Four children and three adults
died in the early morning tragedy

By Linda Aragon and Jaymes Song

Seven people were killed in an early morning fire on Palolo Avenue today.

The dead included three adults and four children, Fire Capt. Marshall Giddens said.

"We did find what we think is seven bodies," he said, adding that the fire was the deadliest he has seen.

Detective Robert Carvalho said two of the victims were found outside next to what he thinks was a back bedroom window. He said most of the victims were found inside the bedroom area.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
A firefighter plays water from a
high pressure hose on the fire.

One woman and a 14-year-old boy injured in the fire were taken to Kaiser Hospital in Moanalua, Giddens said.

The blaze started in a two-story home on Palolo Avenue, then spread to two other homes, one on Palolo Avenue and one on nearby Loke Place, he said.

The seven people who were killed lived in the home where the fire started, Giddens said.

They were identified as Uulu Fau Muina; his son Kalani, 12; daughter Ramona Asuao; and Ramona's husband Tupu, 31. The Asuao's children, who were also killed, were identified as Aotoa and Lele, both 4, and A.J., 6.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
The burned-out remains of one of the homes.

"Based on witness statements, the fire appears to be accidental, stemming from an electrical cause," Carvalho said.

He said the fire may have started in the bottom portion of the home from a faulty extension cord.

As investigators sifted through debris, Tavita and Nua Asuao arrived at the fire scene. They'd heard that Tavita's brother, Tupu, was killed in the blaze.

Nua Asuao carried a box of tissue as she went to look at the damage to the home.

"We just wanted to see them," she said.

She said her brother-in-law was "a quiet man."

Photo courtesy of Asuao family
A.J. Asuau, 6, and his sisters, twins Aotoa and Lele,
age 4, died in this morning's fire.

The fire was reported at 12:36 a.m. Seven fire engines brought the fire under control by 1:14 a.m., Giddens added.

"When we did get the alarm, the houses were all burning completely. In fact, all three houses were fully engulfed," he said.

Neighbor Leilani Maio watched as the fire spread to her home.

"It was so close, it was starting on my sister's bedroom," she said.

When she saw the fire, she grabbed her mother and sister and ran for safety.

Gail Tomita lives a few houses away from where the fire started.

Photo courtesy of Asuao family
Tavita Asuao and wife, Nua.
Tavita's brother died in the fire.

"To everybody, our thoughts are with them. Sorry it happened," she said.

Her family was awakened by loud popping sounds, and they thought they were hearing gunshots at first.

They went out to see what was going on, and all they saw was "huge flames and a lot of fire," she said.

Her husband, Craig Tomita, said after the fire started, people were running through the alley and yelling.

As a parent of four, he said, he feels for the other parents involved. Tomita also plans to practice escape routes with his children and check to see if his smoke alarms are working.

Neighbors said they saw one man run out of the burning house this morning. He ran back in and was not seen again, they said.

Several customers at Frank's Palolo Market, where Ramona Asuao worked, broke into tears this morning.

"She is really sweet," said Alexandria Fortson. "She's so special to the residents of Palolo."

Store owner Ralph "Frank" Teruya, who fielded several calls from concerned customers, last saw the victim yesterday when they closed together.

The last thing she told him was, "See you tomorrow."

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