Driver in Big Island crash had two DUIs
By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
By Kevin Dayton
HILO, Hawai'i — The driver of a Porsche SUV that crossed the center line and collided head-on with two other vehicles in a crash that killed him and four others near Volcano Friday night had twice been convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to court records.
Samuel H. Furtado, 55, had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, said Mavis Ruest, Furtado's ex-wife.
She said Furtado had been drinking particularly heavily the past few months. Furtado would visit Ruest's friend, Loretta Kae Larson Rafferty, at her home in Upper Puna, and would begin drinking at 10:30 a.m. or even earlier, Ruest said.
Rafferty, 46, also died in the crash Friday night. She was riding in the back seat of the Porsche. Also killed were another passenger in the SUV and a Vancouver, British Columbia, couple in a convertible.
Ruest said Furtado recently began spending time with Rafferty, whom Furtado knew from years before when Furtado and Rafferty's former husband worked together in the construction industry on O'ahu.
Rafferty, who often called Ruest, described Furtado's behavior as that of a man who was "on a path of pure destruction," Ruest said.
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Chief Ranger Talmadge Magno confirmed yesterday that "excessive speed and alcohol are contributing factors in this accident."
The crash is being investigated by the park service because it happened about 100 yards inside the park boundary near the 28-mile marker of the Volcano Highway.
Furtado's 2005 Porsche SUV was traveling toward Ka'u when it collided with two cars headed toward Hilo. The occupants of the SUV were Furtado, Rafferty and 60-year-old Lucia Clearwater, of Volcano, parks officials said. All three died in the crash.
The lead car traveling in the opposite direction toward Hilo was a 2006 Chrysler convertible rental car carrying Candice Shonah Chisholm, 32, and her boyfriend, Owen Lloyd Romaine, 33.
The second Hilo-bound car was a 2004 Chevrolet two-door sedan driven by Antony Gross, 37, of Kea'au. Gross is hospitalized at The Queen's Medical Center. His passenger, Volcano resident Daniel Roland Fisher, 43, declined medical treatment. Both men are waiters at Volcano House and were headed home after work.
Former state Rep. Bev Harbin, who is Furtado's cousin, said last night that Furtado was like a brother to her.
Growing up on O'ahu together, they spent a lot of time at Furtado's parents' Waimanalo horse ranch and their Pauoa homes, she said.
"It's tragic for all of us," Harbin said from the Big Island, where she is staying with Furtado's family. "He is one of the three men in my life: my husband, my son and my cousin.
"It's a very, very tragic incident. Where the accident occurred, it's a very dangerous stretch of straightaway. Very foggy and dark."
Furtado was a finish carpenter working in Kona, Harbin said last night. His daughter, a student at UNLV, flew in yesterday to be with the family, Harbin said.
Court records show Furtado was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in 1981, which resulted in a $200 fine, and was convicted again in Hilo in 1999. That second conviction prompted authorities to suspend his license for three months and fine him $150, according to court records.
Ruest said Furtado was also arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in 1996 after he ran into her with her Buick during a domestic dispute as she tried to prevent him from leaving their home on O'ahu to buy beer.
Ruest said Furtado had been drinking and taking medication for back pain the day he struck her with the car, and she wanted to prevent him from leaving with her car.
"He was ripped, and I stood in the driveway and said, 'Over my dead body, you're not leaving,' and he ran me over," Ruest said. "It was my fault, too; I should have gotten out of the way, but I didn't think he would do it."
Furtado was convicted of third-degree assault and sentenced to a year of probation, according to court records.
Furtado and Ruest divorced in 1998, and Furtado stayed in a house they had built together in Volcano, Ruest said.
Within the past year or so Furtado had inherited and sold some family property on O'ahu, using some of the proceeds to buy the Porsche, Ruest said.
Dee Larson, Rafferty's mother, said yesterday that her daughter was "my shining light. She was brilliant, absolutely brilliant." Larson said Rafferty was a teacher, but did not know where she taught.
Rafferty had two daughters, ages 12 and 16, who are now on the Mainland.
"I'm so mad ... these beautiful families have lost members of their families, and it's the system. I want people to know how the system continues to fail us," Ruest said.
The Vancouver couple, Romaine and Chisholm, had been planning their Hawai'i vacation for months, Romaine's brother Glyn told the Vancouver Sun. It was Romaine's first visit to the Islands.
"I've basically found out nothing from the police except there was an accident and three cars were involved and my brother and Candice were killed," Glyn said last night, as he was about to go to his mother's house to tell her what had happened.
Chisholm's sister Colleen was contacted in Armstrong, British Columbia, last night.
"He's destroyed my life," she said of the SUV driver, before breaking down.
Park rangers are being assisted in their investigation by the Big Island Police Department, and rangers ask that anyone with information about the crash call park dispatch at (808) 985-6170.
Parks officials said autopsies have been scheduled.
Advertiser stafff writers Will Hoover and Suzanne Roig contributed to this report. Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton @honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 935-3916.
Reach Kevin Dayton at firstname.lastname@example.org.