Exclusive: father of toddler killed in Kauai crash speaks... - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Exclusive: father of toddler killed in Kauai crash speaks about his deadly 'mistake'

Michael Pagelsdorf Jr. Michael Pagelsdorf Jr.
Kaylie Pagelsdorf Kaylie Pagelsdorf
Sheri Cabinatan Sheri Cabinatan

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Family members say they're concerned about Michael Pagelsdorf, Jr. because he's having to deal with the anguish of losing his daughter, while the public casts judgment on him.

Pagelsdorf was driving with his toddler sitting on his lap Sunday, when he crashed into the vehicle in front of him. Kauai police say the little girl was crushed by the air bag.

In an exclusive interview with Hawaii News Now, the grieving father says he made a mistake -- a mistake he will never be able to take back.

Family members say 14-month-old Kaylie's smile could light up a room.

"Kaylie was sunshine," Lynn Manuel, Kaylie's aunt, said. "She'd brighten up your day just by one look."

But the spunky toddler's life came to an abrupt end Sunday in what should have been a survivable, 25 mile-per-hour crash.

"He knows he messed up," Manuel said about her brother. "He knows what he did was wrong, you know, he should have had her buckled up."

Michael Pagelsdorf, Jr. put Kaylie and her two older siblings into his Nissan Pathfinder for what was supposed to be a five-minute ride to the Chevron gas station where the children's mother works as a cashier.

"They were on their way to come pick me up," Sheri Cabinatan, Kaylie's mother, said through tears. "I just got a phone call, you know, telling me it's Kaylie. I just ran (to the scene)."

Pagelsdorf had rear-ended the vehicle in front of him. His baby girl was sitting on his lap, when the driver's side air bag deployed.

"My baby was already in the ambulance, you know," Cabinatan said. "They didn't let me go inside."

"It happened so fast," Pagelsdorf said. "Half of a second and it was over."

The 28-year-old construction worker says he has a child safety seat, but was trying to comfort his daughter when she became fussy. He says it's a decision he will always regret.

"Only me knows how it really feels because I was responsible. She was in my arms," he said. "It was a big mistake. I just hope people out there learn from it."

Police arrested Pagelsdorf on suspicion of manslaughter, and then released him pending further investigation.

"I take full responsibility for everything," he said. "Whatever comes my way is going to come."

As the roadside memorial for Kaylie grows, the guilt-ridden father tries to hold on to the good times.

"She would just give me the biggest smile," Pagelsdorf said. "She would just come hug me, jump on top of me and make me feel better. I'm going to miss everything."

An autopsy to determine the exact cause of death is scheduled for Friday.

Funeral services will be held at the Aloha Church in Lihue March 11th.

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