Family of victims killed in Marco Polo fire still grieving

Local News

This Saturday marks the anniversary of one of the most destructive and deadliest fires in Honolulu’s history, the Marco Polo building fire.

The deadly fire took the lives of four residents. Two of them lived in the same apartment on the 26th floor. The family of those victims tells us they hold on to the good memories, but the heartache doesn’t go away.

Pastor Phil Reller lost his mother Melba Dilley and his brother Britt Reller in the Marco Polo Fire.

“I think probably the hardest thing is the last hour, the last half hour of their lives and the pain, the horror that day and the other victims went through living with that knowledge,” said Reller.

Reller and his family have had moments of closure at the funeral service and last week when they took their ashes to Minnesota, But Reller says he’s still dealing with grief. 

“You don’t lose the memories, you don’t lose the sadness,” he said.

Through loss, change has come almost one year later. Residents tell us sprinklers will be installed in each unit and in the hallways. Hardwired alarms and strobe lights will also be added.

Reller is glad something is being done, but says it should’ve happened before his family was killed. 

“If fire and life safety mechanisms were in place it wouldn’t have spread,” said Reller. “In a condo tower like that there is always going to be fire but there are practices and mechanisms to limit that exchange and those were not in place because of greedy choices.”

Reller says from this tragedy, all the families who lost their loved ones have come together to form an organization called the Community Kokua Foundation. 

“So one of the first groups that we are going to be offering follow up care with are the people at Marco Polo who are still living in confusion and their lives are disordered,” he said. 

Through the foundation, they are hoping to provide grants or loans to residents of Marco Polo to restore their units and install fire protection upgrades. 

“We want something good to come out of this this tragedy, this preventable tragedy,” said Reller. 

Reller tells us he has received so much support from the community and across the country until this day.

He’s expecting many more people reaching out this week, but the love he and his family have received has helped them through the grieving process and he wants to thank everyone for their support. 

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