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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hawaii bus driver pleads in fatal crash

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: Fatal bus crash

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Steven S. Oshiro

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Corey Voss

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Before killing a Kane'ohe man in a June 2006 head-on collision, tour bus driver Steven S. Oshiro took a bus full of Kansas high school students for a ride on the Pali, driving so erratically that passengers feared they would "plummet over the cliffs" to their deaths, city Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle and a woman on the bus said yesterday.

Oshiro, 50, yesterday pleaded no contest to a manslaughter charge in the death of Corey Voss, 41, killed in the collision with a Roberts Hawaii tour bus that Oshiro was driving.

Carlisle said Oshiro was under the influence of crystal methamphetamine when he drove his bus across the center line of Kamehameha Highway that day, smashing into a sport utility vehicle driven by Voss.

Oshiro's lawyer, David Hayakawa, declined to discuss the allegations of drug use, saying the matter would be addressed when Oshiro is sentenced in April by Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario.

Oshiro entered the no-contest plea because he "knows he is responsible for the death of another" and "does not want to put the Voss family through the ordeal of a trial," Hayakawa said.

Oshiro could face up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, although Carlisle said under the terms of a plea agreement, Oshiro would be eligible for parole after 10 years behind bars. He is being held without bail pending sentencing.

Voss' wife, Asa Akamine Voss, was six months' pregnant at the time of his death and later gave birth to a daughter.

Carlisle said Voss' widow agreed to the plea deal. Her lawyer, Richard Wilson, said the Voss family "is pleased, there's a sense of relief. This allows Asa to close this chapter. Of all the days since Corey died, this has turned out to be a real good one."

Wilson said Asa Voss "wants to thank the police for doing a bang-up investigation, and Peter Carlisle for personally doing everything he could to close this case."

Voss was the food and beverage director at Oahu Country Club and was returning home after a day of surfing.

At 6:05 a.m. that day, about 8 1/2 hours before the fatal collision, Oshiro's bus was involved in a collision with a city bus in Honolulu. Oshiro then returned to Roberts Hawaii's headquarters to report a "minor accident," a company spokesman said at the time.

The tour bus had no passengers when it struck the city bus, and no one was injured in the collision, the company said.

Oshiro then drove to Waikiki and picked up a group of 50 to 60 students, teachers and chaperones from Olathe East High School, in Kansas, and took them to the Polynesian Cultural Center on O'ahu's North Shore.

It was a very harrowing ride, Cindi Kimmel, one of the passengers on the bus, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The students were part of a marching band here to perform in a parade and later aboard the USS Missouri, Kimmel said.

"We noticed the driver immediately, while we were still in the streets of Waikiki," she said.

"Once we got out on the highway, he was swerving across the center line and over onto the shoulder. At one point he swerved so suddenly that the tour guide who was standing up near him nearly fell over," Kimmel said.

"In the mountains, he was swerving, and we were terrified we were going to go off the cliff. When we got to the ocean, we thought the bus was going to crash into the water," she said.

When the vehicle reached the cultural center, the passengers insisted that Oshiro be replaced, and he was, Kimmel said.

"The next morning in the hotel lobby, when we were on our way to the airport, we saw the newspaper and there was an article and a picture, a picture of the bus crash. And we knew instinctively that that was our bus," she said.

"We later did get confirmation that that was our bus. I personally called the Honolulu Police Department the moment I arrived back in Kansas," she said.

"We cried about what had happened," she said.

Carlisle said, "Not only did he kill Corey Voss, who was about to become a father, he also put in danger 50 people from the Mainland."

Carlisle said the case was a difficult one to prosecute because no tests to detect drugs or alcohol were performed after the accident.

Oshiro refused a field sobriety test at the scene of the wreck and later refused to give a blood sample to police at Castle Medical Center, police said.

Carlisle said yesterday Oshiro's lawyer at the time, William Harrison, told his client "not to cooperate" when authorities wanted to take tests at Castle.

"Does an attorney have the right to show up and tell somebody to break the law?" Carlisle said.

Harrison bristled at that statement, saying he advised Oshiro not to consent to the testing, but authorities had the right under the law to compel Oshiro to submit to the tests.

"Or they could have called a judge and gotten a warrant for the tests," Harrison said.

And, he said, hospital personnel already had obtained a urine sample from Oshiro when Harrison arrived.

"It was sitting on the counter when I got there. I assumed they were going to test it, but I guess they never did," he said.

Roberts Hawaii said it fired Oshiro after he refused to submit to a drug test. Oshiro later said in court papers that he resigned.

Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com.