Charges pending for bus stop crash suspect

Potasi Uta Jr., 44
Potasi Uta Jr., 44

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The man suspected of driving the vehicle that crashed into a bus stop in Makaha late Wednesday night killing a three-year-old boy and injuring his mother and three siblings has not yet been charged.

Potasi Uta Jr., 44, was being held at HPD headquarters in Honolulu on suspicion of negligent homicide in the first degree and drunk driving.

"It was horrible. They were screaming. They were crying. It was very tragic," said Erika Ellis who lives near the crash site.

Ellis heard the collision and rushed out to try to help the victims, but there was little she could do for three year old Ashton Brown. Police said he was killed almost instantly.

Ashton's mother and three of his siblings were badly hurt. His 11-year old sister was taken to a hospital in critical condition and according to police at the scene was in danger of losing her legs.

A fourth sibling at the bus stop escaped injury. So did the sixth and youngest child in the family and their father. Those two were reportedly across the street setting up a tent when the collision occurred.

People at the nearby Keaau Beach homeless camp say the Brown family sometimes stayed there.

"I don't know why they decided to stay here last night and not go all the way back down to Keaau. I guess we'll never know," said Makaha resident Kea Klausmeyer-Among.

As Thursday wore on a memorial to Ashton Brown grew. People placed stuffed animals and flowers at the bus stop.

Uta, meanwhile, was behind bars. Police say he fled the scene of the crash, but was pulled over and arrested just a few miles away.

Uta was arrested for drunk driving on Maui in 1986. His wrap sheet shows convictions for criminal contempt of court, felony property damage, and felony theft. He received a five year sentence for auto theft and in 2003 Uta was arrested for burglary and a year later he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Some of Uta's relatives showed up at the crash site to issue a public apology.

"From his heart and from his family's heart, we are so sorry. And he has his own family and his own grand kids that are around the same age as these kids and I don't want him to be looked at like he's a monster and just went out for a joy ride. It was just so unfortunate that this had to happen," said Chantel Garcia, who identified herself as Uta's niece.


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