Kaloko Victims' Families File Lawsuit

KGMB9

Posted: June 29, 2006 06:50 PM

News PhotoAurora Fehring, Alan Dingwall and Rowan Fehring-Dingwall were killed in the Kaloko dam break.

Norman Lee - nlee@kgmb9.com

There had been rumors of a possible lawsuit. Now, three months after the disaster, victims' families take legal action with accusations against the owners of the property, James Pflueger and the Mary Lucas Trust.

The lawsuit doesn't specify how much it's seeking in damages, but it's expected to run in the millions. More lawsuits will likely follow.

More than 300 million gallons of water poured out of Kaloko dam when it breached on March 14.

Three members of the Fehring family were killed when the home they were staying in was washed away. The surviving family members are still in shock.

"Being able to talk through this has helped him to try to deal with it a bit, but they're crushed," said Rick Fried, the plaintiffs' attorney.

They are among the seven people who lost their lives in the disaster.

Today a team of attorneys filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of the victims' families. Their focus is on James Pflueger, the majority owner of Kaloko.

The lawsuit claims Pflueger conducted illegal grading work at the site for his personal projects. That work includes altering the spillway, which is vital in preventing dams from breaching.

"In addition to a number of eyewitnesses who were extremely reliable people, there is photographic evidence of before and after," said

In response, Pflueger's attorney said there is no evidence to link the breach of the dam and the spillway and for "everyone to hold judgment until all the evidence is gathered."

But some argue Pflueger has a suspect history. They point to illegal grading he conducted in Pila'a that left several homes vulnerable to a massive mudslide in 2001. The Environmental Protection Agency levied a record $7.5 million fine and 14 Pila'a residents have filed suit.

The three-mile long swath of destruction from the Kaloko breach will also result in more litigation.

"All of that soil, vegetation, orchards, forests have been stripped from the land," said. "That property is down to bedrock."

"Thirty-two clients at 18 different properties suffered property damage and we'll be filing property damage suits for those clients very soon," said

Fried says the number of people who may be involved in the property damage lawsuit is expected to grow by the time he files it in court.