LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Retired auto dealer James Pflueger will go to trial September 16 in connection with the Ka Loko dam breach resulted in the deaths of seven people.
Pflueger's appearance before Kauai Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano was initially set for a plea agreement, but the deal fell through. Neither his attorney nor the deputy attorney general prosecuting the case would comment on the plea agreement.
Pflueger faces seven counts of manslaughter. In March 2006, seven people were swept away to their deaths after the Ka Loko dam, which sits on Kauai property owned by Pflueger, burst following a period of extended heavy rainfall.
The 87-year-old is accused of knowingly closing a spillway that would have prevented the dam from collapsing.
Pfleuger's attorney said his client said the state is also to blame. "I think it's beyond doubt that the state never inspected the dams. It's beyond doubt that the people responsible for maintaining the dam and the spillway didn't do their job. It's indisputable that people were living in the flood zone without building permits and illegally," said Bill McCorriston.
"They may want to scapegoat one person and that's always the position of the Lingle Administration, but we don't think that's right, we don't think that's proper and we think the state's own report suggests that prosecuting one person is wrong," added McCorriston.
Bill Fehring, who lost his daughter, son-in-law and grandson in the incident, spoke briefly after the hearing. "My wife, my family and myself and our friends and the families of the other victims of the Ka Loko dam disaster are happy that a trial date has been set, and that hopefully, justice will be done in this matter," he said.
Fehring also took note of the fact that trial has finally been set seven years after the tragedy. "We are sorry that the wheels of justice have moved as slowly as they have, but we're happy that it appears that we're moving forward at this point in time."