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Thursday, November 16, 2000

Driver gets
5-year term in 4
deaths on Maui

The cruise ship worker
says he wishes he, not his
friends, had died

By Gary Kubota

WAILUKU -- A 30-year-old cruise ship worker was sentenced to five years in prison today for the traffic deaths of four people on Maui.

Choking on tears and occasionally pausing to gain his composure, Davut Duman of Turkey said he had learned a "hard lesson."

"I wish I died instead of them," Duman said. "I'm sorry."

Maui Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto noted that, according to a surviving passenger, Duman was driving at an estimated 80 miles an hour through Kahului.

"This was truly gross negligence ... this is incredible," Raffetto said.

Duman and his front-seat passenger, Levent Yilmaz of Turkey, survived the crash. Killed were back-seat passengers Claire Breasley, 27, and Sharon Smith, 28, both of Great Britain, and Huseyim Karacik, 29, and Inan Hir, 21, both of Turkey.

Duman and the five passengers worked on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas which had been anchored outside Lahaina Harbor. Duman was driving a rented sports utility vehicle in the early morning hours of April 29 when it failed to make a curve near the junction of Hana Highway and Kaahumanu Avenue, struck a coconut tree, flipped over and crashed into a building.

Deputy Prosecutor Melinda Mendes asked for the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Mendes said Duman was not intoxicated with alcohol at the time of the crash but was driving the vehicle recklessly at night in an unfamiliar area.

"People described what they saw go by as a bullet," Mendes said.

Mendes said traveling distances prevented members of the victims' families from being in court to speak about their loss.

Deputy Public Defender David Wiltsie said Duman knew the victims and feels the pain of the members of the victims' families.

"For Davut, these were people he lived with, played with," Wiltsie said.

"His life will never be the same."

Duman pleaded no contest on Aug. 1 to a number of charges, including four counts of second-degree negligent homicide, one count of second-degree negligent injury, and noncompliance with the speed limit.

Duman told police he was not familiar with the road and that before driving, he had a beer at a Lahaina bar and a sip of a beer at a disco.

He said that as he drove, Smith was telling him to drive faster, while Yilmaz was asking him to slow down, the police report said.

Duman told police the next thing he remembered was being upside down in the vehicle.

Under the plea agreement, Duman has agreed to pay funeral expenses for the victims.

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