More than five years after a 22-year-old pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run, a Big Island fire captain pleaded no contest earlier this month to leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Konrad K. Mossman, 44, now faces wrongful death lawsuits filed by Dale Tim Sing’s girlfriend, who was pregnant with his child, and other family members. They allege Mossman delayed reporting the 2005 accident to cover up the fact he was driving under the influence of alcohol and lied to police, saying his wife was the driver.
Mossman, a 20-year veteran with the Hawaii County Fire Department, was promoted in 2009 to captain and is currently at the Pahala station, despite being charged in 2008.
"Presently we haven’t changed his status," Hawaii County Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira said. The department chose to wait for the results of the criminal case before acting, he said.
"We have been working with corporation counsel (county attorney) on reviewing the conditions of his plea, which could affect his employment with us," Oliveira said.
Mossman pleaded no contest Jan. 12. The judge has committed to following the plea agreement, which calls for 90 days in jail, 10 years of supervised release and $125,000 in restitution.
Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said Mossman agreed to the restitution, even though the charge of leaving the scene "doesn’t mean you were responsible for the injuries."
Tim Sing had been walking along the pedestrian right-of-way of Kahaopea Road in Panaewa when he was struck from behind by the Mossmans’ Ford F-250 pickup truck at about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 4, 2005. Mossman called police the next morning, saying his wife had hit something.
Police found Tim Sing’s body on the side of the road.
Mossman "pled no contest for civil liability reasons," Damerville said, adding, "He did not contest he was the driver. … We were prepared to show he was."
After Mossman’s wife, Huihui Lavon Kanahele-Mossman, was interviewed and the investigation was completed, "we didn’t believe she was the driver," Damerville said.
Damerville said he waited as long as he could for any information that might have led to a negligent homicide case.
"There just wasn’t any breakthroughs," he said.
With the statute of limitations about to expire, "I had to fish or cut bait," he said.
The criminal case against Mossman was filed Oct. 31, 2008.
The civil lawsuits filed on behalf of Tim Sing’s girlfriend, Kassy Astrande, their child, and his parents and siblings, alleges the police department failed to impound the Mossmans’ truck until after 11 a.m. Aug. 5. They also alleged police delayed securing the accident site, failed to thoroughly secure evidence from the body, causing police to miss pieces of the vehicle that broke off during the collision, and also alleged negligence and delay in the subsequent investigation.
John Price, a private attorney who represents the county, said the civil cases had been stayed until the outcome of the criminal case.
He said allegations of improper and inadequate investigation by the police department have been dropped from the lawsuit.
Price noted the police department hadn’t been called until the next morning, and the initial call by the Mossmans was that an animal was hit.
"They went to look for a cow or pig," he said. "Instead they found Mr. Tim Sing. … They found the body off the side of the road. They did a complete and thorough investigation."
Oliveira said "it is still not clear what transpired," and the fire department must base its decisions on the outcome of the case.
"Whenever one of our members is involved in an incident or event that reflects negatively on our organization and our members it is something we take very seriously," Oliveira said, adding, "We hope the public at large does not judge us by what someone did off duty."