Plea deal reached in fatal 2018 crash

KAILUA-KONA — A 23-year-old Kailua-Kona man faces up to a decade behind bars when sentenced in March in connection with the 2018 traffic death of a 41-year-old mother of two.

Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin H. Fujino is slated to sentence Austin Ronald Kembel on March 20 after the man pleaded no contest to first-degree negligent homicide on Jan. 15. In exchange for his plea to the Class B felony, prosecutors dropped charges of manslaughter and second-degree negligent injury.

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He faces up to 10 years incarceration and a fine of up to $25,000 though the plea agreement indicates he could also be sentenced to 18 months jail with probation.

Neither the defense nor the state can request to sentence Kembel as a young adult defendant, per the agreement. However, the state will seek restitution for a man injured in the three-car crash that killed Holualoa resident Trina Walker.

Kembel was indicted in August in connection with the March 12, 2018, crash near mile marker 83, in the vicinity of the Kiholo Bay Scenic Lookout on Queen Kaahumanu Highway in North Kona.

Walker, a mother of two small children, was on her way home from the Mauna Lani where she was employed at Ruth’s Chris Steak House when the collision involving three cars occurred shortly after 10:30 p.m.

According to police, Kembel was operating a 2002 Volvo sedan and headed southbound on the highway when he was involved in a rear-end collision with a 2014 Volkswagen sedan driven by Walker, who was 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 driven by a 31-year-old Waimea man.

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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. Both men were also hospitalized following the wreck.

Police said speed was a likely factor in the crash.

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