We’re learning more about the third victim who died in the fire. She’s been identified by her family as 71-year-old Joann Kuwata.

The family told KHON2 they’re trying to cope as best as they can. For now, they’re waiting for more answers from the medical examiner.

Kuwata’s niece, Dawn Dunbar, told KHON2 her aunt lived on the 26th floor of the Marco Polo building for about 20 years.

Kuwata’s family tried locating her after the fire broke out, but she lived alone and didn’t have a phone.

The family waited hours before receiving the devastating news.

“We weren’t really able to find out anything until the next morning,” Dunbar said. “You know, I think we’re in shock and disbelief. You know, we wouldn’t have thought that she would’ve been the one in that fire.”

Kuwata recently retired, and was a former dental assistant.

“She was a very private person, and kind of kept to herself. But she enjoyed her Korean soap operas,” Dunbar said.

Kuwata didn’t have any children of her own, but Dunbar told KHON2 Kuwata was a caring person who loved her role as an aunt.

“She was our fun auntie who would take me and my cousin in on weekends, and we would stay over at her place and go to movies and go out to dinner. Those are some of the fond memories I have,” Dunbar said.

The family said it’s not clear how close the fire was to Kuwata’s unit or if anything is left.

“We really don’t know because no one’s been allowed to go back to the floor,” Dunbar said.

Until then, the family told KHON2 the question remains – what if the building had sprinklers?

“I’m not sure if that could’ve been something that could’ve helped to save them,” Dunbar said. “She was a very simple lady and she will be very missed.”

The family said they’ll be planning a small funeral service according to Kuwata’s wishes.

from KHON2
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