James Pflueger dies at 91

LIHUE — James Pflueger, who was sentenced to seven months in jail for his part in the Ka Loko Dam failure on Kauai’s North Shore that killed seven people on March 14, 2006, died Sunday in Honolulu.

He was 91.

The retired Honolulu auto dealer maintained throughout the case that his warnings of imminent dam failure to the state and to the state Public Utilities Commission were ignored.

Pflueger was charged with tampering with a spillway easement around the Ka Loko Dam on his 33-acre property. The earthen dam failed after more than a month of steady rain and sent 350 million gallons of water roaring down a gulch into Wailapa stream. The wall of water killed seven people and destroyed a residential area in Kilauea.

A grand jury indicted Pflueger on Nov. 21, 2008. He entered a not-guilty plea in 5th Circuit Court on Jan. 7, 2009.

Pflueger pleaded no contest in 2013 to first-degree reckless endangering in 5th Circuit Court. He was sentenced to seven months in jail in 2014 and five years probation. He was granted a medical release after nearly two months in jail to finish his remaining sentence at home.

“As a father, I have lost two sons, one as a young child and the other as an adult,” he said at the sentencing. “I know there are no words to ever express the grief for their loss.”

He added that no amount of money from civil lawsuits could ever compensate the loss. He said not a day went by that he was not reminded of the tragedy.

“I hope that somehow, some way this can bring some closure to this tragedy,” Pflueger said at the 2014 hearing.

He was released in 2015.

Pflueger, a Marine who served in World War II, had strong family ties to Hawaii and had substantial land holdings. He raised cattle on his Kauai land that was once part of the C. Brewer sugarcane plantation.

He eventually sold his Kauai properties to pay for civil settlements in the Ka Loko Dam case and another $5.5 million in court-ordered remediation, along with $2.3 million in penalties and fines related to a separate mudslide in 2001.

The state approved an application for Pflueger Honda to change its name to Pacific Honda in 2013.

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