Man sentenced to 8 years for crash that killed firefighter

  • Christopher Helmlinger breaks down at his sentencing on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

In a courtroom overwrought with emotion, the man responsible for the May 2019 traffic death of a Hawaii Fire Department captain was sentenced on Friday.

Christopher Raymond Helmlinger, 21, pleaded no contest in November to manslaughter in connection with the multiple-car wreck on May 22, 2019, that killed David Mahon, a 49-year-old Kailua-Kona man who had a lengthy career with the fire department. The change of plea came less than a week before jury trial was set to commence on Dec. 3, 2019.

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Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino sentenced Helmlinger to eight years in prison after listening to statements from both Mahon’s and Helmlinger’s family members.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Frye said that the nature and circumstances of the crash warranted a prison sentence.

“David Mahon is dead and it is 100% because of the defendant’s actions,” said Frye.

Before handing down the sentence, Fujino told Helmlinger that it was his choice to operate his Honda Pilot SUV in a reckless manner.

“You admitted you were in the wrong lane and passed several cars driving 70-75 mph because you were late for work. You appeared to have a mission to overtake all cars when there was room for you to get back in your lane. You disregarded the safety of others and yourself. You caused the death of Captain David Mahon. He was only 49 years old,” said Fujino after detailing the horrific scene of the crash.

Police say Helmlinger was driving a Kona-bound Honda Pilot and overtaking several vehicles in a no-passing zone when he collided head-on with the motorcycle that Mahon was operating the morning of May 22, 2019. Mahon, an 18-year veteran of the Hawaii Fire Department, who’d been promoted to captain shortly before the crash, was headed to work in Hilo at the time of the fatal crash.

A third vehicle, a white Jeep Grand Cherokee, was also involved in the wreck. Neither Helmlinger nor the driver of the Jeep required medical attention.

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The Hawaii Paroling Authority will set the minimum term Helmlinger will spend in prison.

See the full story in Saturday’s edition of West Hawaii Today.

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