Rhode Islanders were exposed to an extraordinary display of political courage Monday when Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, one of four candidates hoping to be the state’s next governor, publicly discussed a tragic fatal accident he caused 25 years ago. Fung was so overcome with emotion during a news conference in Cranston that he left the room to regain his composure. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Flo Jonic attended the emotionally-charged press conference.
Fung was only 18, a freshman in college, when he accidentally struck and killed a man changing his tire in the breakdown lane of Interstate 95 in Cranston. To this day Fung isn’t sure if he fell asleep or was rendered unconscious by a prescription drug. State police were driving Fung away from the scene when he heard that the victim, 41-year-old James Skipper of Pawtucket, had died.
“You know, it came over the radio that the person had died. And I just broke down. So ultimately I was charged with driving to endanger, death resulting, and I was released by a bail commissioner that evening,” said Fung.
A grand jury concluded that it was an accident, and declined to indict Fung. The case was eventually dropped and years later Fung had his record expunged. But over the years reporters and ordinary citizens have asked him about the crash. Two such questions posed to him over the Christmas holiday so concerned him, that he decided to come clean with the story in hopes of putting it behind him and not letting it dash his gubernatorial hopes. He was only three minutes into a news conference when he was so overcome with emotion, he had to leave the room.
“It’s difficult. It’s difficult to talk about this from two fronts – not only myself but also…excuse me,” said Fung.
A sister of the victim, Joyce Strange, of Brunswick, Maine says she forgave Fung long ago. And if he were in her living room today…
“If he were standing here right now quite honestly I would walk up and give him a hug and wish him the best because obviously he’s a young man that finished his schooling, has done well in life and I’m very happy for him,” said Strange.
I shared with Fung what Strange had said:
“She told me that only did she forgive you but that if you were in her living room right now she’d give you a hug. Those were her exact words.”
“You know I sincerely appreciate that offer from Ms. Strange. And I’m sorry it’s bringing back to them too the memories of that day and at some point I’m sure I’ll call the family myself and just have that private conversation with them, personal conversation with them,” said Fung.
Fung says he hopes Rhode Island voters will understand the tragic circumstances and don’t hold it against him. Then, an emotionally drained Fung went back to the business of running Rhode Island’s third largest city.
A conversation with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
Editor's Note: Fung was initially charged with driving to endanger, an earlier version of this story had incorrect charges.
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