EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Many are still looking for loved ones following the devastating Maui wildfires, including one man from Pawtucket, who says he has been searching for his friend all week.
Patrick Turley told 12 News that his friend, Austin Lepper, used to reside in the Attleboro area, but has been living in Maui for about 13 years now. Turley says Austin was living on the streets when the fires started and is now fearing for his friend’s safety.
“He didn’t have resources, doesn’t have a phone, no one has been able to get in touch with him,” said Turley. “Austin was one of my best friends growing up, he is like a brother to me,” he continued.
Scouring Facebook groups and the Red Cross’s list of evacuees is one strategy Turley says he’s been using to find Austin.
“When I’m on these Facebook pages looking for Austin there’s hundreds of other people that are posted, that are listed there – it’s just devastating,” Turley said.
Turley says that he has not slept in days while looking for Austin, however, he is starting to feel hopeful after receiving a message from a friend late Saturday night.
“His mom saw Austin on the other side of the island in Kihei, so it’s not confirmed that he’s alive, but it’s confirmed that he was seen,” said Turley.
Turley says no one has spoken to Austin since the fires started and that communication to the island is poor due to limited cell service.
The death toll from the wildfire climbed to at least 93 people as of Sunday afternoon and officials say the efforts to find and identify the dead was still in its early stages. The blaze is already the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.
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