PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A leading candidate for 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, said 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 drugs and alcohol weren’t involved and a grand jury declined to indict him. He had his arrest record sealed in the 1990s.
“I wanted to get the truth out there, get all the facts out there to the voters of the state of Rhode Island,” Fung said at a news conference. “They need to know the truth about me.”
Fung was teary-eyed for much of the news conference and had to leave the room for a few moments to gather himself after he was overcome by emotion when speaking about the victim’s family.
The crash was first reported by The Providence Journal on Monday.
Fung said he hasn’t brought it up over the years but always acknowledged it when asked. That included during his entry to the bar and in 2002, when he was running for city council and was asked in a candidate questionnaire by the Journal whether he had ever been arrested. He disclosed it at that time, but the newspaper didn’t write about it.
Fung said he wasn’t asked about it during his subsequent political campaigns, including during his four runs for mayor of the state’s third-largest city. Fung lost during his first campaign in 2006 but won in 2008 and was re-elected in 2010 and 2012.
Among the jobs he held before becoming mayor was as a prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office.
Fung described the crash as the most painful experience of his life and said it was “a part of me, a part of who I am.
“God knows why my life was spared that day and someone else’s was taken,” he said.
The crash happened on a Friday morning in February 1989. The victim was James W. Skipper Jr., a 41-year-old Pawtucket resident who had stopped in the breakdown lane to change the left front tire of his car.
Fung said he was returning for the weekend from Connecticut, where he was attending college, to work for his parents’ restaurant.
“I was just driving along. At some point, I lost consciousness,” Fung said. “I remember the crash kinda woke me back up.”
He said he stopped his car, saw Skipper lying on the ground and then went into shock. The state police arrested him, and he was released that night. He said he hired a criminal lawyer and later was told a grand jury declined to indict him.
After his first year of law school, he interned at the state Department of Corrections, where his arrest record came up in a criminal background check. He said staff there suggested he get his record expunged since he had done nothing wrong.
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.
To this day, Fung said, he isn’t sure what happened. He said a doctor told him soon after the crash that it was possible what happened was related to a thyroid condition. He said nothing like that has happened since.
Skipper’s sister, Joyce Strange, told the Journal 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’s not seeking a second term. The state’s general treasurer, Gina Raimondo, and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras are running as Democrats.