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Family sues officer in fatal crash

November 2, 2000

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Restaurants also named in suit


The parents of a 19-year-old Haleiwa woman killed in a two-car crash involving an off-duty police officer last month are suing the officer and two restaurants that the lawsuit said served him alcohol.

The lawsuit filed yesterday by Rod and Susan Ambrose of San Clemente, Calif., names off-duty officer Clyde S. Arakawa, Tropic’s Diner on Auahi Street and the Side Street Inn on Hopaka Street. More names may be added to the lawsuit after further investigation, the family’s attorney Rick Fried said.

Dana Ambrose was killed Oct. 7 when her Honda Civic was broadsided by a Ford Thunderbird driven by Arakawa, 49, on the Pali Highway near School Street.

The lawsuit filed in Circuit Court said both restaurants’ management, employees and others knew or should have known that Arakawa was intoxicated and that serving alcohol to him in such condition was unlawful and posed a risk of serious harm to others.

Yesterday, Fried discussed the lawsuit at a news conference at his office. He also provided details from information that he said was gathered from police officers, witnesses and private investigators.

Arakawa’s lawyer, Michael Ostendorp, did not return calls yesterday. Tropic’s had no comment on the case. The Side Street Inn referred all questions to its attorney, Keith Kaneshiro, who said the restaurant is not liable.

“It’s unfortunate that the accident occurred and Dana Ambrose was killed,” Kaneshiro said. “But it’s unfortunate also that they think that my client, Side Street Inn, is responsible for the accident.

Fried said the information he received was that Arakawa started drinking more than six hours before the fatal 11:50 p.m. crash. Fried said Arakawa had 10 or more drinks, “mostly beer” and some hard liquor.

“It’s our best information that he had started drinking late afternoon between around 4 or 5 at the Tropic’s Diner,” Fried said. “Then after staying there – probably around five hours, he moved to the Side Street Inn – where he had further drinks and that at about 9:30 or 10 that evening returned to the Tropic’s Diner, where he had at least one more drink, leaving there at about 11:30 and then driving, or attempting to drive, home to his residence in Kailua when he ran the red light and killed Dana.”

Witnesses dispute his story

Fried said witnesses at the intersection saw Arakawa’s car run the red light and hit Ambrose’s car. In a police report, Arakawa said he entered the intersection on a green light and didn’t know where Ambrose’s car came from.

“There were several eyewitnesses at the intersection – that have come forward – and have testified that they were stopped at the light for a number of seconds when they saw a car swerve around behind them and run this red light at a high rate of speed, crashing into Dana’s car, pushing it into the median and killing her,” Fried said.

Fried said he brought in a reconstruction expert to examine both cars. The expert concluded the speed of Arakawa’s car was “well in excess of double the speed limit at the time of the impact, probably approaching 60 mph. The speed limit is 25.”

Fried said his office is investigating alleged prior alcohol-related incidents involving Arakawa.

“We believe (Arakawa) had a number of other situations involving drinking that we’re certainly going to try to get to the bottom of,” Fried said.

He said Arakawa retired on Tuesday and is in Oregon. Fried, who said Arakawa’s departure was “not a problem,” expressed confidence that he would return.

Police spokeswoman Jean Motoyama confirmed that Arakawa had left the department, but said she could not say whether he retired, resigned or was terminated. Arakawa, a 25-year veteran, was scheduled to retire at the end of this month.

`Known for good food’

In defending the Side Street Inn, Kaneshiro said: “Side Street Inn is known for its good food and a place to socialize. It’s not known for a place where people go to drink.”

Kaneshiro acknowledged that Arakawa was at the restaurant on Oct. 7. Kaneshiro said he didn’t know how much Arakawa drank.

In speaking of police procedures, Fried said officers should have insisted on a blood sample from Arakawa after the fatal accident. Under state law, any person involved in a suspected drunken driving incident that results in serious injury or death is to undergo a blood test, Fried said. Police said blood is drawn at the hospital. Arakawa did not go to the hospital.

“A number of eyewitnesses and the officers, I’m sure, will confirm that (Arakawa) was told, `You shall get in the ambulance, get on the gurney – let’s go,'” Fried said. “For some reason, after several refusals, he wasn’t pushed on that. He clearly had an arm injury that was significant enough that I suspect any of us would have gone to get treatment. I think he must have known that if he had gone to the hospital, he was going to get his blood alcohol checked.”

Fried said Arakawa’s breath test, which was administered several hours after the 11:50 p.m. crash, registered 0.06. Hawaii’s legal limit for blood alcohol is 0.08.

Police said the breath test was taken was about five hours after the crash and was administered only to determine if Arakawa was coherent and sober enough to make a statement.

Arakawa refused a field test to determine sobriety, and a breath test, immediately after the crash, as well as the blood test. In response, the state revoked his driver’s license for one year.

“We know the Breathalyzer was 0.06,” Fried said. “I’m not sure of the exact time. So clearly, at the time of the accident, he would have been well in excess of the legal limit.”

Yesterday, the Ambrose family took out newspaper advertisements asking anyone with more information to come forward.

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