18 months jail for deadly car crash

LIHUE —  A Lawai man was sentenced to 18 months jail for a DUI crash that claimed one life and injured another.

Norman R. Bukoski, Jr., 35, was sentenced to the maximum allowable time with probation for first-degree negligent homicide on Thursday in 5th Circuit Court. He received a concurrent one-year jail term for first-degree negligent injury.

It was shortly after 10 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2010, when Bukoski’s pick-up truck crossed into the eastbound lane of Kaumualii Highway in Koloa. It collided with a pickup truck, killing the driver, Tomas Sagabaen Garcia Jr., 32, and injuring the passenger, Aaron Marvin of Kilauea.

In tears, Bukoski apologized for the suffering he brought on his family and the families of the victims.

“I am truly sorry,” Bukoski said.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes said this was a preventable accident. The defendant chose to get behind the wheel after drinking at two bars and then in his truck.

Bukoski’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit, Mendes said. He made the decision not to call a friend or a taxi, and made his pickup truck a lethal weapon.

County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said after the sentencing that a collision is not an accident when someone spends an entire night drinking and then operates a 7,000-pound vehicle at high speeds on Kauai roads.

“That is a tragedy and it is a serious crime,” Kollar said. “The defendant’s remorse is genuine and I believe he is going to spend the rest of his life regretting what he did, but when an individual makes the decision to drive drunk and that person kills someone and injures another person, prison is the only appropriate sentence.”

The surviving victim, Marvin, now 30, addressed the court at the hearing. He and Garcia were electricians and returning home after a late job at Kapaa High School. He suffered a broken arm, broken teeth and other injuries and asked the judge to think about preventing drunken driving crashes when sentencing Bukoski.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano said Garcia had many years of life ahead of him. He had a promising career and looked forward to starting a family.

The lack of criminal history and good character worked in favor of the defendant, he added, but the severity of the crime and the need to deter others from getting behind the wheel after drinking was clear.  

Bukoski was ordered to pay $17,148.89 in restitution to Garcia’s family. He was also ordered to pay $1,060 in restitution to Marvin.

No matter the sentence, the court cannot turn back the clock and bring the victim back to life, Valenciano said.

Family members of both the victims and defendant were present with county victim/witness program staff. Four members of the Garcia family testified about the ongoing suffering they still endure and asked the judge for a lengthy prison term.

Garcia’s widow Jeana was present. The two were married for just over a year. He worked two jobs and they had hoped to start a family.

Froilan Garcia said his brother “put others before himself” and wanted justice for the family, and for his late brother. “I can forgive but I can never forget that tragic event,” he said.

Garcia’s sister Flordeliza Salacup said she relives that night, the call from her father, and going to retrieve her brother’s belongings from the police.

A second sister, Bernadette, said her brother “was so full of life” and taken from them too soon. She asked the court to bring closure to the family.

Bukoski was also injured in the crash and hospitalized for two days before his arrest. He was indicted by a grand jury and arraigned on Nov. 15, 2011. He changed his plea to no contest on June 24, 2013.

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