Grandmother of 4 Is First Tourist Identified as Victim of Maui Fires: 'She Had a Heart of Gold'

Theresa Cook, 72, was "visiting Lahaina for some solitude and rest by herself” when the fires broke out, according to loved ones

A California woman is the first tourist to be identified as a victim of the deadly Maui wildfires.

Theresa “Terri” Cook, 72, of Pollock Pines, was staying at a Best Western Pioneer Inn in Lahaina when the fires broke out on Aug. 8, NBC affiliate KCRA-TV and The Sacramento Bee reported.

The grandmother of four “was visiting Lahaina for some solitude and rest by herself” when she was evacuated from her hotel, according to a GoFundMe set up on behalf of her family. She was last seen leaving on foot, her daughter told KCRA-TV.

After days of waiting for information, loved ones learned that Theresa had died on Sunday, per the online fundraiser. Officials publicly identified her as a victim of the fires on Tuesday.

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Theresa was remembered as “an amazing mother” who was “very much” loved by her grandchildren.

“She was someone who would put others’ needs ahead of her own; even a complete stranger's,” a family friend wrote in the description of the GoFundMe page. “She had a heart of gold and will be deeply missed by many.”



Related: How to Help Hawaii Wildfire Victims, Including Ways to Donate

Theresa’s daughter, Melissa Kornweibel, said her mother was scheduled to fly back home on Aug. 9, according to KCRA-TV and the Bee. However, she was forced to flee the fire on foot the day prior.

“She had messaged us and said she was having a wonderful time and the island was so healing,” Kornweibel said.

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Theresa’s children “received little guidance as to where their mother had gone” during the “horrible disaster,” but “remained hopeful” that she would be found, according to the GoFundMe message.

Now, her kids are left with funeral costs, “medical bills, home expenses, additional debts and her beloved pit bull” in addition to the heartache that comes with such a sudden and significant loss.

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“In addition to prayers for comfort and healing, we appreciate anything you can give to help while navigating this great loss,” the family friend said in the fundraiser’s description. “It all adds up and will make a huge difference.”

The death toll for the Maui fire currently stands at 115, with 27 victims identified, though between 1,000 and 1,100 people are still unaccounted for.

To help with the identifying process, officials are asking family members to come and provide DNA samples.

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