Daughter searches for elderly father called Uncle Shadow; he’s among hundreds missing from Maui wildfires
Since Aug. 8 when the Lahaina fire destroyed much of the town, Kimberly Buen has been desperately searching for her 79-year-old father Maurice Buen, a former fisherman whom she describes as a sweet and kind guy known to locals on Maui as Uncle Shadow.
“He was given the nickname by his father and brothers because when he was little he would follow them around like a shadow,” she said. “He became one of the kupunas, or elders, so the uncle name was attached.”
Uncle Shadow is partially blind with mobility issues. And when the fire broke out, he was living in a low-income, independent housing for the elderly and disabled at 1028 Wainee St., apartment H3 — near Front Street where buildings burned to the ground. She said his complex was “completely destroyed.”
Buen, who lives in California, has not heard anything about her father despite searching endlessly.
“I’ve tried every avenue and I keep hitting wall after wall,” she said. “I’ve tried the Red Cross. I’ve tried all the shelters. I’ve tried the hospitals.”
She also has called the Maui Police Department, neighbors and other people who knew him. She has scoured social media looking for him and to post that he is missing. She also has contacted the mainstream media to get his story out.
Maurice Buen is among the hundreds, if not 1,000 plus people, whose relatives and friends are still looking for them since the Lahaina fire destroyed or damaged 2,719 structures, of which 86% were residential.
Getting an official number of the missing has been difficult, although Gov. Green said on Sunday that about 1,300 people were “unaccounted for.” He also emphasized that “none of us think” that all of the “unaccounted for” people are deceased.
As of Friday morning, the official death toll was at 111, with the identities of only six of the victims publicly released. At that time, an estimated 58% of the burn area had been searched for victims by cadaver-sniffing dogs and other responders.
On an unofficial crowd-sourced list created by a KĪhei resident and called Maui Fires People Locator, more than 6,000 names were on it, but the majority have been found. As of Friday morning, the “not located” number had dropped to 948.
There also is a community-sourced Facebook group to help find people who have been missing since the fire, where people from all over the world are reaching out looking for friends and family.
Luz C. Rios Monfreda wrote asking help to find Gogi: “We still haven’t heard from my brother. If anyone cross paths with him please message me and ask him to call his mother, Iris. We are praying he’s OK.”
Elizabeth Ray wrote asking for help to locate two 13-year-olds from Lahaina: Noe Fononga and Aka Tony.
For Kimberly Buen, it’s been agonizing the not-knowing for 10 days, with no answers in sight.
But she is still holding out hope her father was evacuated, as she first was told could be a possibility.
“I talked to someone who lived nearby and she said she went to the area and he wasn’t there. Another neighbor said they made it out on her own and went around knocking on the doors and weren’t getting any answers,” Buen said.
A family friend tried to go back in to look for him but wasn’t allowed to enter Lahaina, she said.
Buen said she is planning to come to Maui to search for her father after getting no answers trying to do so long distance.
“I’m not having any luck,” she said sobbing. “It literally took a week until the Red Cross got back to me. The first question they asked me is if I found him. I said that’s why I’m calling you because I can’t find him.”
She said: “I keep trying not to loose it, but as each day goes by, it just gets harder.”
If anyone locates Maurice Buen, you can call daughter Kimberly Buen directly at 818-723-5831.
The Maui County Family Assistance Center is helping to document the missing and it is a place where relatives can provide DNA mouth swabs to help identify the dead. That center is located at the Hyatt ballroom in Kaʻanapali.