As students across Maui return to school on Wednesday, two children have a future to anticipate, thanks to the heroic efforts of a 25-year Lahaina boat captain and two other women.
On Tuesday evening, Aug. 8 around 5:30 p.m., as the massive fire raged, Christina Lovitt was assisting fellow boaters whose vessels had been damaged or were adrift at sea.
“The smoke was so thick that visibility in the harbor was almost zero. We could feel the intense heat,” Lovitt recounted.
As the flames drew closer, Lovitt and her team began evacuating people by boat from the harbor.
“It was like clear at that point. No one is going to help us no one’s going to help put the fire out. We have to do what we can do to save people and get them out of the harbor,” she said.
However, the situation intensified when boats, hit by embers carried by the wind, caught fire and exploded, leading to the alarming sight of the water itself catching fire.
“The harbor was on fire and there were waves — like waves that you can surf outside the harbor, that were on fire,” Lovitt described.
With the United States Coast Guard’s vessel unable to navigate the shallow reef, Lovitt and a rescue swimmer ventured in, discovering two young children.
“A fellow rescuer mentioned there were many survivors on the beach. We managed to rescue the two children,” she explained.
Despite their relentless efforts, working till 4 a.m., they were unable to locate any other survivors.
A somber Lovitt said:
“I’m feeling terrible that we didn’t get more people out. We did get people out as the fire started. We were able to get two children out of the water. But I’m hearing these stories now and I’m just like I don’t know how I missed them because we were looking hard for them.”
The aftermath of the blaze weighs heavily on Lovitt.
“The next thing that I think is going to be really, really hard. It’s just the reality of everybody that we lost in the fire,” she lamented.
Although Lovitt’s own boat was destroyed in the fire, she has been utilizing boats owned by others, making supply runs to the towns north of Lahaina to assist those affected.