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Sterling Highway collisions leave four dead

Two adults, two children killed in two separate crashes

Posted: July 24, 2011 - 8:00am

Two Friday night crashes on the Sterling Highway left four people dead, several seriously injured, and the road closed for almost 10 hours.

William Tillery, 46, and Angela Tillery, 45, both of Anchorage, died at the scene of the first accident. The second accident left 5-month-old Hayley Watt of Chugiak dead. Four-year-old Levi Watt, also of Chugiak, succumbed to injuries sustained during the second crash and died at Central Peninsula Hospital Saturday evening.

The accidents happened within one hour of each other, with the first occuring several minutes before 6 p.m. It involved a Jeep carrying Palmer resident Richard Moffitt, 23, and a Honda motorcycle carrying William Tillery and Angela Tillery.

Investigation revealed the motorcycle, which was towing a small travel trailer, was traveling southbound near Mile 64.5 of the Sterling Highway when the northbound Jeep crossed the center line and collided head-on with the motorcycle.

Moffitt was transported to CPH with injuries.

Central Emergency Services, Alaska State Troopers Soldotna Patrol, and the Bureau of Highway Patrol's Kenai Peninsula Team responded to the scene.

The responding agencies closed the road and, according to Troopers Public Information Officer Megan Peters, could have easily rerouted people through Skilak Lake road had the subsequent accident not occurred only an hour later.

About 45 minutes after receiving the first 911 call, another accident was reported 25 miles down the road at Mile 40.5 involving a Chevrolet SUV carrying four people and a Chevrolet pick-up truck carrying one person.

Investigation revealed Chugiak resident Shaina Watt, 27, was traveling southbound when she attempted to pass a vehicle. During the pass she lost control of the SUV and collided with the northbound pick-up truck driven by Palmer resident James McPherson, 61.

Watt, a female adult passenger, and Levi Watt were airlifted by Life Med helicopter to CPH. Hayley Watt died at the scene, while Levi Watt died at the hospital the following day. McPherson was transported to the hospital for minor injuries.

Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in either crash, Peters said, although as with any highway fatality, toxicology reports will be conducted.

Initial reports received indicated a semi-truck was involved in the second accident; however, this turned out to be untrue.

"It was so hectic that some of the information was lost in translation," Peters said.

Between trying to allocate resources, triaging the crash victims, and closing the road, Peters said the evening was absolutely chaotic.

"It was a madhouse," she said.

Peters knows that people are anxious to get where they are going, but urges drivers to use extreme caution on the roads.

"Be patient on the roads. Take your time," she said. "We had three people die last night."

The highway reopened at 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

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dabannock
9
Points
dabannock 07/24/11 - 06:19 pm
0
0
Highway Safety ideas

I attended a meeting in 2009 at Girdwood after we had 8 deaths on the Seward Highway in 100 days. I've proposed a plan that uses the AK DoT's format of "3 E's of Highway Safety: Education, Enforcement & Engineering." I think its applicable for the Sterling Highway too

Education: maybe instead of just upping the punishment (double fines etc) we could return driver ed to High School classes. And what about a campaign to encourage drivers to "look in the mirror" pull over when there is a long line behind you,

Enforcement: What is the point of an unmarked police/Trooper car? To catch me!

Ask yourself this question and answer honestly: Why I see a marked police/Trooper car on the highway, I
a. Speed up and wave to attract the cop's attention
b. I don't even pay attention when I'm driving, so I can't answer the question
c. I instinctively look down at the speedo and lesson the pressure on my right foot

If your answer is C, as I know many will be, a greater presence by MARKED law enforcement vehicles will likely have an immediate and positive result. How about scheduling the maximum number of cops in MARKED vehicles around peak holidays/dipnet season?

Engineering: What would happen if DoT developed a long-range transportation plan that included a 4-lane highway on the most dangerous parts of the Seward/Sterling Highways and presented their findings to the Governor and legislature. Could we pay for it? Sure we could. We pay for everything else.

I'm not content with "well Duane, we're doing the best we can!" Who has the political courage to demand real improvements?

kenaibear2001
119
Points
kenaibear2001 07/24/11 - 08:03 pm
0
0
4 Lane Highway

OMG, were dealing with people in Cooper Landing and DOT. That road is a lost cause, out of control, 1940 design. Build the Bridge to Peninsula, and give us another route, or close the Kenai River!

As far as rear view mirrors..... and counting cars behind them.... has anyone ever seen a fisherman/tourist that can count? Watched fishermen take their daily limit of 9 to 13 all day today.... and that wasn't dipnetting.

hunteralaska
101
Points
hunteralaska 07/25/11 - 09:02 am
0
0
Highway Improvements

I think we would all support improvements to the road system here. But lets not put in the 3 lane idiot highway that's north of Girdwood. Spend the extra money and install a 4 lane in those sections that have a history of accidents with the highest percentage of death and injury. Getting something started like that always leads to more improvements. If Cooper Landing doesn't want to be included, just bypass them and let the businesses there fight it out with the residents. You can't have it both ways and make improvements that will save lives.
We've all known for years that from the Seward cuttoff going south for 25 miles needs to be upgraded and especially now that bazzillions drive here for the fishing. Hmmm, let's see now...... we'll spend tons of money increasing the fish runs, tons of money on tourism advertising, create advisory boards full of those who have their personal gain in mind and reccomend rules to ADF&G that don't represent the resource's best interest to make the Kenai Pennisula a destination. Then NOT spend any money to make the only road SAFER. Don't tell me goverment isn't ripe with special interests when saving lives by improving public safety is a published "priority".

s2wheel
55
Points
s2wheel 07/25/11 - 10:23 am
0
0
too fast

so why was this car going so fast in that area that she lost control of her car, there is a posted speed limit, most of the sterling hiway has a 55 mph limit, if I drive 60 I get a line of traffic behind me, am I going to pull over and let them brake the law, I think not. what we do need is more enforcement to stop the high speed traffic and they need to enforce it.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 07/25/11 - 11:31 am
0
0
Highway $Construction$

Mon. 7/25/11
I worked as a Concrete Truck Driver at the Canyon Creek Bridge Project/Hope Jct back in the late 90's

If I remember correctly ? That 7 mile project $costs$
22 Million Dollars, most of which was the building of a brand new Bridge & Davis/Bacon Wages & Federal Highway Funding. None of which would have happened without
"Uncle Ted Stevens" & his "Pork Projects" for Alaska.

So Yes Mr. Hunter is correct about the needed highway improvements BUT where do ya get the $funding$ for those projects ?
Perhaps Don Young could get some of his Florida Highway Funds moved to Alaska ?

My opinion is that the State Trooper Highway Patrol needs to be double the staffing allocated now. State Troopers have forever been UNDERSTAFFED & that results in People Dying
on our highways.

SPW in Soldotna

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