Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Girdwood Man, 39, Killed In Seward Highway Collision That Injured 16
Troopers release updated information on three-vehicle collision that shut down both lanes of traffic for seven hours
Alaska State Troopers have released the names of those who were involved in Thursday afternoon’s collision on the Seward Highway in Indian.
Trooper Sgt. Michael Zweifel was on the scene of the collision and says 16 people were injured and Jason Small, 39, of Girdwood, was killed.
Both lanes of the Seward Highway were shut down for more than seven hours.
Troopers say at 1:42 p.m. Thursday they began getting 911 calls of a three-vehicle collision at mile 104.2 of the Seward Highway. Troopers with the Girdwood Post and Bureau of Highway Patrol responded.
Investigators say a 72-year-old Anchorage man, Lewis Hayes, was driving an 11-passenger Ford van, traveling north on the Seward Highway. Eight people were in the van, Troopers said.
Hayes crossed the center line and struck, nearly head-on, a south-bound Ford F-150 pickup truck, Troopers said. Small was behind the wheel of the pickup.
Small’s truck crashed into a rock wall near the highway, trapping him inside. He was extricated and declared dead at the scene, Troopers said.
Hayes’ van continued in the southbound lane and struck another vehicle head-on—a Chevrolet Suburban driven by Dorota Balaban, 43, of Anchorage. Eight people were in the Suburban, Troopers said.
All eight people managed to get out of the Suburban before it caught on fire, Troopers said.
Joshua Levi witnessed the collision while visiting Alaska from Washington, D.C.
“Just coming around the bend, saw large, billowing smoke coming from around the corner,” Levi said. “About 5 minutes later, it turned into flames. It must have happened five or 10 minutes before it even showed up at the scene. Fairly large. I could see them from a quarter of a mile away.”
But the Ford passenger van was leaning against the Suburban when it caught on fire. Two people were trapped in the Ford van, Troopers said.
Bystanders managed to use a chain to pull the van away from the burning Suburban, and were able to save the two people in the van, Troopers said.
Anchorage and Girdwood firefighters were able to extricate the people who were trapped and extinguish the burning Suburban.
Hayes was medevaced to Providence Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
The van’s seven passengers were driven to nearby hospitals for treatment of serious injuries.
Balaban and seven others in the Suburban were treated on-scene for minor injuries and released.
“We have had a number of fatalities on that (Seward) highway alone this year and the Sterling Highway,” said Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters. “They are all tragedies. We really need to step up as a community because the roads are only as safe as the people driving on them.”
Officers with Alaska State Parks Law Enforcement and Alaska Railroad Law Enforcement also responded to the collision.
All three vehicles were totaled, Troopers said.
The collision is under investigation.