PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A leading candidate for Rhode Island governor disclosed on Monday that he was responsible for a crash that killed a man 25 years ago.
Allan Fung, the Republican mayor of Cranston, told The Providence Journal he was an 18-year-old college student in 1989 when he lost consciousness behind the wheel and hit a man who was changing a tire on Interstate 95. He said a grand jury declined to indict him, and he later had his arrest record expunged.
The Journal reported that Fung disclosed the crash to them in 2002 when he was running for city council, but the newspaper decided not to report it at the time. Fung said he hates discussing it but decided to approach the newspaper to discuss it now because he worries political opponents will spread the story to hurt his campaign.
Patrick Sweeney, a consultant for the campaign, said on Monday that Fung didn't bring up the arrest on his own but always answered truthfully when asked. He first ran for mayor of the state's third-largest city in 2006, but lost. He ran again in 2008 and was re-elected in 2010 and 2012.
"He was never asked that question during the mayoral race," Sweeney said.
In an email to supporters Monday morning, Fung described the crash as "the most painful experience of my life" and said that from the day of the crash forward, he made a commitment to enter public service.
"When I was in college, I was in a car accident that resulted in a fatality," he wrote. "The accident was thoroughly investigated, and all charges were dismissed. Neither drugs nor alcohol was involved. This is something that I have lived with, and will continue to live with, for the rest of my life."
He also said he was deeply sorry "for the pain and grief of the family and friends of the man who lost his life."
The crash happened on a Friday morning in February 1989. The victim was James W. Skipper, Jr., 41, a Pawtucket resident. He had stopped in the breakdown lane to change the left front tire of his car. Fung told the newspaper he doesn't know why, but that he lost consciousness and was woken up by the crash. After he stopped his car, he saw Skipper lying on the ground.
Fung later agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $112,000 to Skipper's parents, money he said was paid by his parents and insurance company.
Skipper's sister, Joyce Strange, told the newspaper that Fung's family tried to make it better, and that it's right for Fung to put it behind him. She says he has "gone through hell," and people should not hold it against him.
Fung faces businessman Ken Block in the Republican primary to succeed Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is not seeking a second term. The state's general treasurer, Gina Raimondo, and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras are running as Democrats.
Fung was a lawyer before being elected mayor. Among his jobs was as a prosecutor in the state attorney general's office from 1999 to 2001.
The state GOP chairman, Mark Smiley, did not immediately comment on the disclosure, indicating in an email to The Associated Press that he was taken by surprise.
"Frankly, I know what you know," Smiley wrote.