Waimea man pleads not guilty to charges in fatal crash

  • Nicholas abarcar appears for his arraignment and plea Wednesday in circuit court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

A Waimea man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to seven charges filed in connection with a 2019 crash that claimed the life of a mother of four and injured three girls.

Nicholas Abarcar entered the plea in front of Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim, who set a jury trial for Jan. 5, 2021.

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A Kona grand jury indicted Nicholas Abarcar on Aug. 10 on charges of manslaughter, second-degree negligent homicide, two counts first-degree negligent injury, second-degree negligent injury and operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant in connection with the Nov. 10, 2019, crash.

Abarcar was operating southbound on Queen Kaahumanu Highway a black 2017 Jeep Renegade SUV when the then-25-year-old passed a vehicle within a passing zone and collided head-on with a gray 2015 Honda Pilot SUV that was headed northbound on the highway, according to police. The collision occurred at 2:10 p.m. north of the entrance to Ke Kahakai State Park in North Kona.

The Honda’s driver, 35-year-old Cassandra “Cassie” Lynn Ellis, of Kailua-Kona, was killed on impact.

Her three passengers — identified as Taylor Campogan, and Kawena Haserot, both age 15 at the time of the crash, and Trinity Campogan, then age 10 — were sent to Kona Community Hospital. Taylor Campogan and Trinity Campogan were Ellis’s daughters; Haserot and Taylor Campogan were best friends who both attended Kealakehe High School.

The four were headed to Kua Bay for the day.

Abarcar was also injured in the crash and was taken to Kona Community Hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries, according to police. He was later arrested on suspicion of first-degree negligent homicide, DUI, reckless driving and three counts first-degree negligent injury but released pending further investigation.

Abarcar turned himself in on Friday after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He has since posted $15,000 bail.

According to court records, Abarcar pleaded no contest to DUI, having a blood alcohol content over 0.08%, back on May 15, 2018. He had been arrested and charged with DUI and driving without a license following a traffic stop on Aug. 22, 2017.

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He was found guilty and sentenced to pay $312 in fines and fees, $350 in restitution and complete driver’s education and a substance abuse rehabilitation program. His license was also revoked from Sept. 22, 2017, through Sept. 21, 2018.

Manslaughter is a Class A felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years upon conviction, while second-degree negligent homicide is a Class C felony with a maximum five-year prison term. Abarcar can be convicted of one or the other, but not both charges in connection with Ellis’s death.

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