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Driver in crash that killed Kula bicyclist sentenced to probation

Family: ‘Nothing will ever soothe this ache’ of losing husband, father, friend

WAILUKU — With family members saying their lives were forever changed, a driver was sentenced Wednesday to one year’s probation for a Christmas Eve collision nearly three years ago that killed a bicyclist in Kula.

Jeffrey Kahl, 58, of Kula said he passes a memorial for chiropractor Andrew Janssen daily and says “hi” and “sorry.”

“I cannot express my sorrow enough,” Kahl said in a letter to the court. “It was a horrific accident I will live with for the rest of my life.”

Second Circuit Judge Kirstin Hamman followed a plea agreement in sentencing Kahl, who had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree negligent homicide for the crash at 11:16 a.m. Dec. 24, 2019.

Janssen, a 64-year-old Kula resident, was wearing a helmet as he rode in a bike lane down Kekaulike Avenue when he was hit by a pickup truck driven by Kahl that was turning left onto Hapapa Road in Kula, police said.

Janssen was thrown from his bicycle and died at the scene, police said.

Police said Kahl reported he hadn’t seen the bicyclist.

Janssen’s wife, Nikki, said she and the couple’s triplet daughters, Savy, Sophie and Makena, were in shock after she got a call from police that day.

“I still lose my breath over that call,” Nikki Janssen said. “We’re so grateful for our beautiful community that fed us and they loved us and they got us to move on.”

She said the girls had flown home for the holidays and the family had been planning a two-week trip to New Zealand.

“He was the perfect father for me and one of my best friends,” said Savy Janssen. “My heart broke in pieces. My dad, my living hero, was just riding his bike.”

“Nothing would ever be the same and I would never be able to hug my dad again. I miss him every single day.”

She remembered his “humor, adventurous heart and unyielding love.”

“One of the people who brought so much good and grace to this world, to my family, is gone,” she said. “Nothing will ever soothe this ache.”

Her sister Sophie, appearing by videoconference for the hearing, said, “I hope today we can all find a little bit of peace.”

“I know we are all feeling a lot of pain, including you, Jeff,” she said. “It’s courageous for us to all be in the same room and be honest and together.”

Nikki Janssen said the family has suffered both emotional and financial stress since her husband’s death.

They had known each other for 30 years. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him,” she said.

She said she wonders “how on a clear stretch of road on a beautiful sunny morning someone couldn’t see a bicyclist.”

“He was an experienced cyclist and he rode defensively,” she said.

She said she suffers from nightmares “repeating the crash over and over.”

“I can fix many things, but I can’t fix my kids’ broken hearts,” she said. “I’m not angry and I understand accidents happen. It just really hurts.”

Walter Enomoto, a bicycle advocate for more than 20 years, said Janssen participated in dozens of bicycling events over the years.

“It was a big loss to not only myself but others in the bicycling community,” Enomoto said.

“This was a monumental tragedy for the family and had ripple effects throughout the community,” said Deputy Prosecutor Sally Tobin.

Defense attorney William Sloper offered apologies to Janssen’s wife and daughters.

“Losing their father on Christmas Eve, there can be no more tragic experience in their life and our sincerest apologies and condolences,” Sloper said.

He said one remarkable part of Janssen’s life was his license plates, which read “Never Quit,” “Dare to Dream,” and “Glass Half Full.”

“That speaks volumes to the type of man he was,” Sloper said.

In sentencing Kahl, Judge Hamman said, “Obviously, it’s a horrible tragic accident that has affected all of you in ways that words can’t really express.”

She said he hoped the opportunity to be in court and have Kahl hear their words would help Janssen’s family.

“You will also be impacted for the rest of your life,” the judge told Kahl. “The court’s hope is that all of you find peace in whatever way you can.”

Kahl was ordered to pay $3,619 in restitution.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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