Law change led to quick charges in watercraft incident

By Paula Akana
Published On: Aug 13 2012 06:36:09 PM HST

The Australian visitor charged with negligent homicide in a deadly watercraft crash may not have had to face charges if the incident happened before a state law was changed.

HONOLULU -

The Australian visitor charged with negligent homicide in a watercraft crash at Keehi Lagoon on Aug. 5 is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

Had the incident happened several months ago, 20-year-old Tyson Dagley would not be facing the charges he's facing now.

Dagley is charged with third-degree negligent homicide in connection with the deadly watercraft crash.  16-year-old Kristen Fonseca died a day later.

The charges came quick in this case.  Dagley was most likely the first person on Oahu charged since Hawaii negligent homicide law was revised this session.

Those changes were, in part, spurred by a deadly incident in Hawaii Kai three years ago.  That's when 17-year-old Keahihoku Lum and a friend were run over by a boat while spearfishing off China Walls.

Lum died from massive lacerations.  His family was frustrated as they waited over a year to find no criminal charges were filed against the boat operator.

"At that time, when you look at the statutes, negligent homicide only applied to vehicles," said City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.  "Boat is not a vehicle.  It's a vessel."

Kaneshiro said they had urged the Lum family to go to the legislature to change the law.  This session, lawmakers did just that.

"The legislature saw the law was not adequate, so they changed the law to include vessels because people can be negligent when operating a boat," said Kaneshiro.

Under Senate Bill 2971, the term "vehicle" was amended when it comes to negligent homicide to include not only motor vehicles, but also vessels and even mopeds.  This made it easier for prosecutors to bring charges.

Dagley's girlfriend, Natasha Ryan, has been charged with hindering prosecution for allegedly lying about capturing the incident on her camera.

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