Their son is gone, but Ed and Paula Werner are attempting to ease even a tiny part of the pain for the next parents who lose a child to an impaired driver. Kaulana Werner, then 19, was hit and killed on April 24, 2016 years ago near the family house on Farrington Highway. He died in his father’s arms.
“You don’t ever want to be in our predicament,” Paula says. It is a predicament that shows no sign of abating, which has only added to the family’s grief, and convinced them to try and make major changes.
The alleged offender, who pled not guilty, had a blood alcohol concentration of .13 (.08 is the legal limit). She was convicted of negligent homicide and failure to render aid and was sentenced to 10 years for each convictions to run concurrent.
In their grief and the frustrations of the criminal justice system the family was inspired to make change in the community and in the laws. They organized sign wavings along the highway, where the memorial still stands, and challenged the leeward community not to drink and drive at the Red Zone event, April 24, 2018. They gathered 12,000 plus signatures to support the Kaulana Bill which became law July 1, 2018. The law allows judges to extend sentences in felony negligent homicide or negligent injury cases when the “defendant did not remain at the scene of the crime and render reasonable assistance to the injured person…” SB2582; HB2588,HD1
Ron Shimabuku, the Werner’s nephew who lived with them and considered Kaulana his brother, says the law is to increase penalties and act as a greater deterrent. Often, he says, those who are found guilty are given concurrent sentences or even just two or three years.
Kaulana was dubbed “Fly High Wonder Werner” at Kamehameha, where he played football and baseball. Ed has a picture of Kaulana in his football uniform pointing to the sky. It brings chills to Ed and his family. For Kaulana’s family, walking out of their house — into the crime scene — does the same.
The Werners continue to reach out to schools and kids, trying to get them to say something if they see someone about to drive while impaired, even if it is their uncle or auntie.
“Drinking and driving is a terrible thing,” says Ed. “It’s time for our state to stand up. We voted for these people and I hope they can set some stricter rules, divert the next person from drinking and driving, so no other father has to endure the pain that I have every day and especially on Father’s Day.”