Teuaililo “Teu” Nua’s friends and family hung pictures and posters on a fence next to Royal Suite Lodge Friday evening. The 38-year-old died while trying to escape from the fire that killed one other person and sent 16 to the hospital. Friday night’s candlelight vigil was organized to honor Nua and others affected by the fire.


“We all need one another in such a time like this,” said Judy Tanuvasa, Nua’s aunt and the wife of the pastor at Manai Fou Assembly of God church. She was the first person to address the crowd during the vigil. “We cannot find the words to say. Even the right words could not comprehend nor soothe the heartbroken.”


Many of Nua’s family members were in attendance, including her husband, Toatolualoalii Nua. He said when the fire started, he first thought it was a false alarm, since there had been several recently. His wife asked him to check on their young daughters. When he did, he realized the building was on fire.


He opened the front door to see if they could take the stairs, but could only see flames. With their escape routes blocked, he decided to drop the girls from the window of their third-floor apartment.


“I grabbed my young one, the five-year-old. I held her out the window, and she was crying in fear, telling me, ‘Dad, no.’ I was like, ‘Don’t worry baby.’ Then I just let her go,” said Toatolualoalii Nua. “She looked up, she started crying. I knew she was OK, in a sense.”


Once both girls were on the ground, Teu Nua followed.


“I start calling to her, like ‘Babe! Babe!’ No response. I just dove over her. I didn’t care if I had broken legs or what. I just dove over to get to her,” said Toatolualoalii Nua, who said he suffered several lacerations on his legs and feet while escaping.


He described his wife as a smart, caring woman who never hesitated to tell the truth.


“She made me who I am today,” he said. “I can hear her right now telling me to be strong.”


He said the couple’s daughters were released from the hospital and are currently staying with their grandmother.


The vigil closed in song. Tanuvasa said Teu Nua was known for her singing voice, so it was fitting to sing back to her.


KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.