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Driver whose bus struck and killed elderly man pleads guilty to homicide by vehicle

reporters@samoanews.com

The bus driver who operated an aiga bus that struck an elderly man which led to his death back in August entered a guilty plea in High Court a week ago.

Reino Esera who remains in police custody was initially charged with homicide by vehicle, careless driving, general duty of drivers and failure to yield right of way for pedestrians.

However in a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pleaded guilty to the homicide count while the government moved to dismiss the remaining charges.

Homicide by vehicle is a class D felony which is punishable up to five years in jail, a fine of $5,000 or both jail time and fine.

According to the plea agreement that was read in open court, upon the defendant’s guilty plea he admits that on Aug. 25, 2012 he unintentionally caused the death of Tufue Malele Forsythe.

The victim was crossing the street in the crosswalk in front of CBT when he was struck by the bus and the victim died from injuries he suffered as a result. The defendant said he fell asleep while driving and accidentally struck the victim.

Esera has also agreed to pay restitution of $4,238.83 for hospital and funeral related expenses incurred by the victim’s family.

According to the plea agreement the government and the defendant are free to make their own sentencing recommendations to the court.

Also the defendant understands and accepts that sentencing recommendations by counsel are not binding on the court, which has the sole responsibility for determining an appropriate sentence within the limits of the law.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse who was accompanied on the bench with Associate Judge Fa’amausili Pomele accepted the plea agreement between the government and the defendant.

Prior to accepting the plea deal, Kruse told the defendant he cannot come back later and withdraw his guilty plea if the court decree’s a different sentence than what was recommended by both parties.

The defendant noted he understood the terms of the plea deal. Sentencing for the defendant has been scheduled on Dec. 6, this year. The Chief Justice also ordered a probation pre-sentence report for this matter.

According to the government’s case, witnesses at the scene said the victim was crossing the road using the crosswalk and was struck by an aiga bus that was heading east bound early Saturday morning. Police attained written statements from three witnesses who saw the incident.

One witness who was sitting in front of the CBT store said the victim had almost gotten to the other side of the crosswalk when the aiga bus, which was allegedly speeding, struck the victim with the bar handles attached to the bus.

The defendant told police that when he was approaching the Laufou Shopping Center, he fell asleep behind the wheel while the vehicle was still in motion. He said in an instant he heard a loud bang sound from his bus and it appeared to be something that struck the bus. A passenger told the bus driver that he had struck an old man.

The defendant got out of the bus and saw the victim lying unconscious on the main road, where he rendered aid to the victim.

The government claims 72-year old Tufue Malele Forsythe was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m. at the LBJ hospital.



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