SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake man has been sentenced to prison for manslaughter after he drove around a railroad crossing barrier and was hit by a train, which killed his pregnant girlfriend.
Nephi Adelino Makaya, 27, was sentenced last week to at least one and up to 15 years in prison for the death of Kaipa ʻOfa KiʻUiha Sateki Kinikini, 30, in July 2016.
A jury in November found Makaya guilty of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. When the verdict came down, Makaya pleaded guilty to driving on a revocation, a class C misdemeanor, and prosecutors dismissed a misdemeanor charge for no proof of insurance and an infraction for failure to register a vehicle, according to court documents.
Makaya was driving a Jeep on 900 South when he encountered the crossing arms blocking the railroad tracks at 600 West, according to charging documents. To get around them, Makaya drove around a concrete barrier and traveled west in the eastbound lanes, the charges state.
A southbound FrontRunner train slammed into the passenger side of Makaya's jeep, where Kinikini was sitting.
Kinikini was declared dead about 30 minutes after the crash, according to charging documents. Her unborn daughter was delivered by emergency C-section and survived.
Investigators later determined that Makaya had methamphetamine and marijuana in his blood at the time of the crash, according to the charges.
Makaya was given credit at sentencing toward time for the driving on a revocation charge based on the months he has spent in jail since his arrest, according to court documents. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the case.1 comment on this story
In a letter submitted to the judge at the conclusion of Makaya's jury trial last month, a family friend insisted Makaya would never deliberately hurt his girlfriend and their unborn child. While in jail for the past eight months, the woman wrote, Makaya has gotten sober and is working to overcome his addiction.
The woman wrote that Makaya's destructive choices are a result of challenges he has faced in his life since childhood.
"This is the first time I've ever really seen him try, and he should be given credit for it, and not thrown behind bars like some horrible human being," the woman wrote.