Driver responsible for four deaths surprised to get prison time

John Szemkow
John Szemkow
Nova Dacquel
Nova Dacquel

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Tears filled an Oahu courtroom during the sentencing of a man who caused the deaths of four people in Kunia two years ago.

John Szemkow, who faced sentencing for failure to render aid and four counts of third-degree negligent homicide, was actually surprised when he received prison time.

A retired Navy man, injured while serving his country, walks gingerly into the courtroom. He's followed by a group of people with emotional scars.

"The friends that I trust has been taken away," Nova Dacquel, crash survivor, said through tears.

John Szemkow says he was on medication for prior injuries, when his car drifted into on-coming traffic on Kunia Road in April 2006. A pickup filled with farm workers swerved to avoid him, and slammed into a cement truck. Four farmers died. Eight others were injured.

"I always feel guilt wherever I go, flashback when I'm going work, when I pass by where the accident happened," Dacquel said.

Prosecutors say Szemkow deliberately drove on the wrong side of the road to pass a slow-moving vehicle.

"He does not accept any blame," Russell Uehara, deputy prosecutor, said. "He does not show any remorse. He blames the drugs for his erratic driving."

Szemkow wants to keep the incident off his record, and asks for a deferral.

"I will continue to not drive, and will always carry the burden and the mourning of those who died," he said.

But his request is denied. He receives a 10-year prison term.

His attorney asks the judge to delay the start of the sentence, saying his client isn't ready with his medical arrangements.

"Was he really expecting a deferral?" this reporter asked.

"Well, it's not, well, either a deferral or probation," Sam King, defense attorney, said.

"So he was surprised by the 10-year term?" this reporter asked.

"Oh yeah," King replied.

Nova Dacquel, who was driving the pickup with the farmers in it, is satisfied with Szemkow's punishment.

"I feel my heart been released," she said.

The judge ordered Szemkow to surrender to authorities on Friday.