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Man Sentenced 8 Years for Crash that Killed HFD Captain

January 31, 2020, 2:27 PM HST
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Captain David Mahon. PC: HFD

Emotions were running high after a 3rd Circuit Court judge handed down an eight-year sentence to a 21-year-old man responsible for the death of a Hawai‘i Fire Department firefighter.

This morning, Christopher Helmlinger appeared in 3rd Circuit Court before Judge Melvin Fujino at the Keahuolu Courthouse for sentencing. Helmlinger pleaded no contest to manslaughter in November for a crash in May that left Hawai‘i Fire Captain David Mahon dead. Fujino ultimately sentenced the 21-year-old to an indeterminate period of eight years as a youthful offender.

On May 23, 2019, Helmlinger was traveling toward Kona in a Honda Pilot SUV when he struck Mahon, who was traveling toward Hilo on a motorcycle, on Highway 190 in a no-passing zone at mile marker 14. Hawai‘i County Police say Helmlinger had passed several vehicles before the crash happened.

“Witnesses reported that they had observed a white 2006 Honda Pilot SUV driving in a reckless manner and passing several vehicles in a single pass at speeds over the posted 50 mph,” police reported in May.

Hawai‘i County Deputy Prosecutor Stephen Frye told the court this morning that evidence shows Helmlinger was passing over a knoll and when Mahon crested the hill, neither party had time to react.

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Mahon’s death is “100% the defendant’s fault,” Frye said.

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“The safety of our roadways relies on everyone to obey the laws of the road,” Frye said. “The defendant needs to understand that he was completely at fault and that he needs some time to think about his actions.”

Helmlinger’s attorney Michael Schlueter told the court that his client doesn’t dispute the facts, adding prison is not a place for people like Helmlinger.

“He is a good person, his family are good people,” Schlueter said. “I assure you, this will follow this young man. I do believe he’s been changed to his core.”

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After the hearing, Helmlinger was handcuffed and taken out of the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, Schlueter said this was one of the hardest cases he’s handled.

Frye was satisfied with Fujino’s decision.

“We’re pleased that the judge agreed with our recommendation,” Frye said.

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