KAILUA-KONA — A Hawi woman has been charged in connection with a 2016 fatal crash in North Kohala that left two dead.
A Big Island grand jury indicted Hanna Bree on charges of second-degree negligent homicide and manslaughter. The indictment was filed last week and a bench warrant of $5,000 was issued for her arrest.
Bree posted bail on Oct. 10. On Wednesday, she pleaded not guilty to the charge before 3rd Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino.
The charges stem from a crash that occurred on Kohala Mountain Road, also known as Highway 250, on Nov. 4, 2016. Bree was reportedly traveling north in a 2007 Honda SUV when she reportedly failed to negotiate a turn, crossed the centerline of the highway and collided head-on with a 2008 Scion Xb that was traveling south.
The occupants of the Scion, married couple, Albert Kita, 77, and 83-year-old Dorothy Kita, also of Hawi, were taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital for treatment. Albert was pronounced dead at 9:32 a.m. and Dorothy at 12:15 p.m.
Bree was also taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital for injuries she suffered in the collision.
At the time of the incident, Hawaii Police believed speed and inattention might have played a role in the crash.
A wrongful death civil suit was filed in June of 2017 in Hilo Circuit Court by Honolulu attorney Woody Soldner on behalf of Kita’s daughter, Lauraann Rodrigues.
Rodrigues sued Bree on her own behalf and as a representative of her parents’ estates.
The suit claims Albert and Dorothy Kita suffered “extreme conscious pain and suffering” prior to their deaths and that Rodrigues continues to suffer “great worry and distress” as a result of Bree’s “failure to accept full responsibility” for Rodrigues’ losses.
According to court documents, the lawsuit was settled and a stipulation for dismissal with prejudice was filed on June 19.
Rodrigues’ attorney in the civil lawsuit, Nicole Kalakau, said Thursday her client received civil justice.
“It’s a very tragic situation where Ms. Rodrigues lost both her parents,” Kalakau said.
While the civil case has been resolved, Kalakau indicated Rodrigues was glad a criminal case against Bree was moving forward, as she was still seeking criminal accountability from the Hawi woman.
“Although it took time for the prosecutor’s office to file charges, it was worth the wait,” Kalakau said.
A jury trial has been scheduled for Feb. 12, 2019.
Manslaughter is a class A felony punishable by up to 20 years incarceration, without the possibility of suspension of sentence or probation, and a maximum fine of $50,000. Second-degree negligent homicide, a class C felony, carries up to five years incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000.