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Family of doctor killed in 2019 Kakaako triple-fatal crash is awarded $10 million

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Posted Oct. 8, 2021

BRUCE ASATO / JAN. 28, 2019

The Honolulu City Council has approved a $10 million settlement in a civil lawsuit filed by the family of William Travis Lau, one of three pedestrians killed in a January 2019 crash in Kakaako. This file photo shows the scene hours after the multi-fatality collision at Kamakee Street and Ala Moana Boulevard on Jan. 28, 2019.

The Honolulu City Council has approved a $10 million settlement in a civil lawsuit filed by the family of William Travis Lau, one of three pedestrians killed in the January 2019 crash in Kakaako.

The settlement was approved Wednesday at a Council meeting. During the meeting, the city Department of Corporation Counsel indicated the city will pay $3 million. The settlement also will include funds from the city’s insurance carrier.

In December, Lau’s widow, Melissa-Iris Lau, and his parents, William and Esther Lau, filed a civil complaint against the city, Sheldon Watts, Alins Sumang and unnamed defendants alleging the defendants created an “unreasonable risk of danger and/or harm to William Travis Lau and others” at the intersection of Ala Moana Boulevard and Kamakee Street.

In a Thursday interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Lau’s widow said she and her husband’s parents filed the complaint to get answers on what happened. “It wasn’t for any financial gain. We weren’t expecting any financial gain. The reasons why we wanted to pursue this is we wanted to get answers for ourselves on what really happened.”

Of the settlement, Melissa-Iris Lau said, “This is not celebratory for Travis’ parents and I.”

“This is not providing any closure,” she added. “This just basically tells us that the state is willing to accept accountability.”

The Department of Corporation Counsel and Honolulu Police Department could not be reached for comment.

According to police, Sumang was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck and had hit parked cars several blocks away from the intersection of Ala Moana Boulevard and Kamakee Street on Jan. 28, 2019. He was allegedly being followed by a police vehicle when he sped down Ala Moana Boulevard.

The complaint alleged Watts, a Honolulu police officer, chased Sumang in the Ala Moana and Victoria Ward areas at high speed.

At some point Sumang lost control and plowed into pedestrians at the intersection.

Lau, a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist at Pacific Anesthesiology Services, was killed in the crash.

Reino Ikeda, 47, of Japan and Casimir Pokornoy, 26, of Pennsylvania were also killed. Four others were injured. Police said Sumang had a half-empty bottle of alcohol in his truck at the time.

In June a circuit judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. Under a plea agreement, Sumang, 30, pleaded guilty to three counts of manslaughter and four counts of second-degree assault. He is serving three 20-year concurrent sentences for the manslaughter convictions and four five-year concurrent sentences for the assault convictions consecutively at Halawa Correctional Facility.

Watts was named in a separate complaint filed at Circuit Court for an improper high-speed chase prior to the crash. He previously testified that he attempted to locate and follow Sumang but did not pursue him blocks away from the deadly crash scene.

The complaint alleged, based on witness statements and video surveillance, that Watts was in a high-speed pursuit within a block of the scene and did not activate his siren or flashing lights, a violation of HPD pursuit policy.

Melissa-Iris Lau said Thursday that the police officer had exposed people to avoidable danger by chasing Sumang into a crowded area with a lot of pedestrian traffic.

“Completely avoidable,” she said. “The whole thing could’ve been completely handled much better.”