Man pleads not guilty to charges stemming from 2018 traffic fatality

KAILUA-KONA — A Kailua-Kona man pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Kona Circuit Court to manslaughter, negligent injury and other offenses stemming from a 2018 traffic crash on Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

Austin Ronald Kembel, 22, of Kailua-Kona was taken into police custody last week after being indicted earlier this month on charges of manslaughter, first-degree negligent homicide and second-degree negligent injury for the death of Trina Walker and injury to Newton Palakiko on March 12, 2018.

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Kembel was released after posting $10,000 bond. A trial date was set for Nov. 19.

The negligent homicide charge is a lesser included offense to the manslaughter charge and Kembel can only be convicted of one or the other, not both.

Walker, a mother of two small children, was on her way home from work when she died following a three-vehicle crash near mile marker 83 on Queen Kaahumanu Highway in North Kona.

Responding to a 10:39 p.m. call, police determined Kembel was operating a 2002 Volvo sedan and headed south on the highway when he was involved in a rear-end collision with a 2014 Volkswagen sedan driven by Walker, who also was traveling south.

The collision caused the Volkswagen to spin and cross over into the northbound lane of the highway, where the it was then rear-ended by a northbound 2013 Honda sedan driven by Palakiko.

Walker was taken to Kona Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 2:57 a.m. March 13, 2018.

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If convicted, manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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