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Retired auto dealer James Pflueger has reached a plea deal for the deadly Ka Loko dam break on Kauai in 2006.
In March 2006, a series of heavy rains forced Ka Loko dam to give way, sending a wall of water and mud downstream, killing seven people.
Pflueger was accused of covering the spillway before the reservoir over filled and burst.
Seven years after that tragic day, Pflueger answered to what happened.
In court Thursday, the 87 year old changed his plea to no contest for first-degree reckless endangering — a felony. He will serve five years probation, but the state could still argue at sentencing that he do community service, pay a fine, or serve a year behind bars.
The father and grandfather of two of the people killed spoke to KHON2.
“I’m happy that finally after all these years Mr. Pflueger has accepted some responsibility for his actions that resulted in the Ka Loko Dam breach,” Bruce Fehring said.
Fehring’s house was washed away in the dam collapse, killing his daughter, Aurora, son-in-law Alan Dingwall, grandson Rowan, and four family friends.
But Pflueger won’t be answering to seven counts of manslaughter. In exchange for his plea for reckless endangering, the state dropped those charges.
His company, Pacific 808 Properties, however, pleaded no contest to the manslaughter charges and has agreed to pay $50,000 for each person killed.
Fehring calls that dollar figure insulting.
“The idea that you can transfer responsibility somehow to a corporation on felony charges is what I would consider a travesty,” Fehring said.
Fehring says his wife and children think about their loss almost daily. Their only grandson, Rowan, would have been 9 years old.
“Putting Mr. Pflueger in jail or not, or fining his corporation is not going to bring back Aurora or Alan or Rowan or any of the other people who were killed,” Fehring said.
Fehring will get to speak to Pflueger at his sentencing in January. He hopes the judge takes what he has to say into consideration when handing down a penalty.
Related story: Pflueger headed to trial for Ka Loko dam disaster