Not guilty plea for driver in crash that killed HFD veteran

  • Christopher Raymond Helmlinger turns to exit Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin H. Fujino's courtroom Thursday after pleading not guilty to manslaughter and second-degree negligent homicide charges filed in connection with a May 22 crash that killed 49-year-old Kailua-Kona resident David Mahon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A memorial centered by a photo of David Mahon and his 10-year-old son, Dylan, has been set up in memory of the Hawaii Fire Department veteran killed in a multiple-car crash May 22 on Mamalahoa Highway in North Kona. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

KEALAKEKUA — A Waimea man accused of the traffic death of a Hawaii Fire Department captain has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the May 22 crash.

Christopher Raymond Helmlinger, 21, was arraigned Thursday in Kona Circuit Court. He entered not guilty pleas to manslaughter and second-degree negligent homicide in connection with the multiple-car wreck that killed David Mahon, a 49-year-old Kailua-Kona man who had a lengthy career with the fire department.

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Judge Melvin Fujino scheduled a jury trial on Sept. 4.

The judge ordered Helmlinger to surrender his driver’s license to police after the hearing. He must also not leave Hawaii Island, and the U.S. passport he holds, which Helmlinger told the judge his father was mailing to him, must be turned in as well.

Helmlinger, who was indicted June 10 by a Kona grand jury, is free on $100,000 bail posted two days after the fatal crash near mile marker 14 on Mamalahoa Highway in North Kona.

Mahon’s mother, Chris Anderson, was present for the hearing, sitting in the gallery with a member of the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Victim/Witness Program. She declined comment outside the courtroom after the hearing but stared at Helmlinger as she exited the courtroom.

Helmlinger’s attorney Michael Schlueter also declined comment after the hearing.

Police say Helmlinger was driving a Kona-bound Honda Pilot and overtaking several vehicles in a no-passing zone when he collided head-on with Mahon’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Mahon, an 18-year veteran of the Hawaii Fire Department, who earlier this year became a fire captain in Hilo, was headed to work in Hilo at the time of the fatal crash.

A third vehicle, a white Jeep Grand Cherokee, was also involved in the wreck. Neither Helmlinger nor the driver of the Jeep required medical attention.

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Manslaughter is a class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment upon conviction, while second-degree negligent homicide is a class C felony that carries a potential five-year prison term.

The charges are alternatives to each other and Helmlinger can’t be convicted of both.

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