HONOLULU (KHON2) — There is a race against the clock in Florida to find survivors of a building collapse, and a Hawaii graduate is believed to be among those still missing.
Friends say 21-year-old Ilan Naibryf graduated from Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the Big Island in 2018 and was supposed to come back to Hawaii in just two weeks.
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Friends said Naibryf followed in his mother’s footsteps and came to Hawaii for boarding school and everyone said they were quickly drawn to him.
“We had AP Human Geography together. And I loved his vibe right away, I was like, obsessed with him for the first couple months of sophomore year, because I just thought he was such a positive, upbeat person,” said Naibryf’s good friend, Sarah Schulman. “He just radiated really positive vibes towards me.”
Friends are holding on to hope after word quickly spread that Naibryf had not been heard from ever since part of the building he was in collapsed.
“I was just thinking, like, where was he in the building, it was just a bunch of unknown,” Schulman said. “I got really scared, and I started panicking and then I gained hope, I was like, ‘there’s been so many miracles that have happened.'”
“I got a call that morning and yeah, I mean, it was probably the worst news but I know how strong he is and how tough he can be, so we can only hope,” said Naibryf’s friend, Michael Hanano.
Friends said Naibryf quickly became part of their ohana back in 2015 and was always down for an adventure.
Schulman recalled a 20-mile hike with friends at Volcano and Hanano remembered Naibryf calling him out of the blue, asking if he wanted to join him on a trip to Spain.
“He came in with such positive energy, and he was able to just integrate so well into our pretty small, tight-knit family we have at HPA,” explained Hanano. “It was just a seamless entry of him just coming into the group and just being accepted by everyone, and just being an incredible person.”
“It always seemed like he was meant to live in Hawaii, in my opinion,” said friend Ryanne Doherty.
“He was like the goofiest, funniest, athletic, smartest guy, and everywhere we went, he knew everyone, and everyone had like the best things to say about him,” she continued.
After graduating from Hawaii Prep Academy in 2018, Naibryf moved to the Windy City to study molecular engineering at the Univeristy of Chicago.
“He was just too smart for his own good,” Schulman said while laughing. “He needed a college that was going to keep up with his innovations, he was just constantly coming up with new ideas.”
Hanano and Schulman were looking forward to seeing Naibryf on July 8, when he planned on returning to Hawaii for a trip with his girlfriend.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy said in a statement on Friday:
“Hawai’i Preparatory Academy (HPA) shares the hope that Ilan Naibryf ’18 and his girlfriend will be located soon. We have been in touch with Ilan’s mother, Ronit Felszer, who is also an HPA graduate from the Class of ‘87, and are offering counseling to our HPA community to assist in understanding this tragedy. The HPA ʻohana sends our sincere aloha and thoughts to both Ilan and his girlfriend’s family and friends.”