Kona man charged in 2018 traffic death set to make initial court appearance

KAILUA-KONA — A Kailua-Kona man is set to make his initial appearance in court next week after being indicted on manslaughter, negligent injury and other offenses stemming from a 2018 traffic crash on Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

Austin Ronald Kembel, 22, of Kailua-Kona, was taken into police custody Wednesday after being indicted earlier this month on charges of manslaughter, first-degree negligent homicide and second-degree negligent injury for the vehicular death of Trina Walker and injury to Newton Palakiko on March 12, 2018.

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Kembel was released after posting $10,000 bond and is set to make his initial appearance in Kona Circuit Court he will enter a plea to the offenses on Sept. 4.

The negligent homicide charge is a lesser included offense to the manslaughter charge and Kembel can only be convicted of one or the other, not both.

Walker, a mother of two small children, was on her way home from work when she died following a three-vehicle crash near mile marker 83 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway in North Kona.

Responding to a 10:39 p.m. call, police determined that Kembel was operating a 2002 Volvo sedan and headed south on the highway when he was involved in a rear-end collision with a 2014 Volkswagen sedan driven by Walker, also traveling southbound.

The collision caused the Volkswagen sedan to spin and crossover into the northbound lane of the highway, where the Volkswagen sedan was then rear-ended by a northbound 2013 Honda sedan.

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Walker was taken to the Kona Community Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 2:57 a.m. March 13, 2018.

If convicted, manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

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