The widow and parents of Dr. William Travis Lau mourned the loss of the talented 39-year-old physician Thursday, two years after a tragic collision took his life and two others as they waited at an Ala Moana Boulevard crosswalk.
Reino Ikeda, 47, of Japan and Casimir Pokornoy, 26, of Pennsylvania were also killed in the crash, and three others were injured. The tragedy shook the Kakaako community and led to calls for stricter laws against drunken drivers.
A pickup truck driven by a 27-year-old who had a strong odor of alcohol on him plowed into the pedestrians, waiting to cross Kamakee Street along Ala Moana Boulevard, at 51 mph, police said.
To mark the second anniversary of their deaths, the Honolulu Police Department set up an impaired- driver checkpoint Thursday evening on Ala Moana Boulevard and Kamakee Street, where they were joined by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Walk Wise Hawaii to promote traffic safety.
Melissa Lau, the doctor’s widow, who returned to the scene of the tragedy Thursday, said, “For me it’s frustrating because I feel nothing is being done. We have not toughened up our laws or penalties. We are always going to continue to have these incidents because we are allowing it.
“I hate for people to think this was an accident, because it’s not. Once you are impaired and you get behind the wheel, whether you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol, after you have had sedation or anesthesia, impaired is impaired, and if you get behind the wheel, you know you are at risk for ruining not just your life, but you’re at risk for ruining the lives of others.”
Lau said her life changed in a second when she lost her husband of nearly three years.
“I didn’t have any easy life growing up, and he showed me a life that I could look forward to; and that’s all been taken away from me.
“But he wasn’t just taken away from me. He was a huge contributor to the medical community. … He saved a lot of lives. It’s a real shame that somebody like him, who had the potential to make so much more of an impact on this world, was just taken away from this one thing.”
“He’s a highly trained cardiothoracic anesthesiologist. He worked on the open-heart cases. He kept those people alive during the surgery.”
Bill Lau, the doctor’s father, said, “It feels like it was yesterday. It’s been wearing on us. And with the pandemic, we miss him even more because he would have been contributing a lot.”
“He was very athletic. He ran, played tennis, surfed, free-dived and golfed,” Bill Lau said. “He ran marathons here and in Boston when he was going to medical school. He ran the Boston Marathon for the leukemia and lymphoma society there.”
“Such a tragic accident,” Lau said. “Three people and several other people were injured, and this should never have happened if we had good laws against drunk driving, impaired driving — whether it’s alcohol or marijuana or whatever.”
The family held signs along with members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to help bring awareness to the community.
Esther Lau, the doctor’s mother, said, “I think of Travis every day. Not a day goes by. We have to live with this for the rest of our lives.”
Travis Lau was the elder of two children and the couple’s only son.
Police conducted their DUI checkpoint Thursday on Ala Moana Boulevard, near the intersection with Kamakee Street, stopping 700 vehicles.
Two drivers were arrested — one on suspicion of having an open alcoholic beverage container, the other on suspicion of driving impaired due to drugs.
Flowers tied to a utility pole memorialized the victims who died at the traffic island where the pedestrians stood.
Alins Sumang, the driver responsible for the crash, had a half-empty bottle of Absolut Vodka on the floorboard of his Ford F-150 pickup at the time of the crash, according to police.
Just before the deadly crash, Sumang had slammed into parked cars several blocks away and was being followed by a police vehicle as he sped down Ala Moana Boulevard, police said. After crossing three lanes of traffic to attempt a right turn onto Kamakee Street, he crashed into the group of pedestrians before ramming into another pickup and critically injuring its driver, police said.
Travis Lau was a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist at Pacific Anesthesiology Serv-ices. He was a graduate of ‘Iolani School and Tufts University. After he completed both medical school and residency at Tufts, he continued his training as a cardiothoracic anesthesiology fellow at The Cleveland Clinic. On his return to Ho- nolulu in 2011, he joined Pacific Anesthesiology Services.
Sumang is being held at Oahu Community Correctional Center in lieu of $1 million bail, awaiting trial on multiple counts of manslaughter and assault.
Trials are set for March in two criminal cases against Sumang.
The first case, filed Feb. 5, 2019, charges him with three counts of manslaughter, a Class A felony, in the three deaths. That trial is set for March 29.
The second case, set for trial March 9, charges Sumang on four counts of second-degree assault for injuries to Bronson Nauka, Regina Wang, Lianna McCurdy and Richard Philip.
If convicted, Sumang may be sentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole since he is a repeat offender, having been convicted before of first-degree terroristic threatening.
A police officer involved in the chase, Sheldon Watts, is being sued in Circuit Court for an improper high-speed chase prior to the crash.
The family of Pokornoy and two surviving pedestrians, Lianna McCurdy and Daniel Verderame, both of Honolulu, and later joined by Ikeda’s family, sued Watts along with Sumang and the city.
Watts testified in court, a week after the crash, that he looked for and followed but did not pursue Sumang on Keeaumoku, Rycroft, Pensacola, Kona and Piikoi streets. He said he was stuck in traffic a third of a mile behind Sumang on Ala Moana Boulevard when the truck turned abruptly onto Kamakee Street.
The lawsuit alleges Sumang was under the influence of alcohol when he collided into parked cars at Amana and Makaloa streets. That’s when Watts was flagged down and started looking for the pickup; he found it on Keeaumoku Street and began pursuing it as it turned onto Rycroft Street.
“As a result of the high speed pursuit up and down these streets, and most critically on Ala Moana Boulevard, Defendant Sumang attempted to evade Defendant Watts … by attempting a sudden right turn onto Kamakee Street when he lost control of the truck, causing it to violently climb an island severing a light pole and colliding into eight pedestrians and then slamming into another truck.”
The lawsuit alleges that Watts was in a high-speed pursuit less than two seconds behind Sumang before the crash.
Watts said he had his blue lights on so a vehicle would move out of the way, but also documented he turned them off and continued to pursue the truck, in violation of HPD pursuit policy of having the blue light and siren in use to command a vehicle to stop before a pursuit is initiated, the complaint alleges.
The complaint also said McMurdy and Verderame suffered severe, permanent and disfiguring injuries and “witnessed bodies scattered on the street,” including their friend Pokorny, “as first responders hopelessly attempted to render aid to him.”