The driver of a bus died while transporting 20 Snug Harbor Seafoods employees, which caused the vehicle to veer off the Sterling Highway early Sunday morning.
Steven A. Battershall, 59, of Sterling, was pronounced dead on the scene, apparently from natural causes, according to an Alaska State Troopers dispatch.
Seven employees aboard the bus received non-life threatening injuries following the accident. Central Emergency Services responded to the crash at Mile 90 of the Sterling Highway at 6:45 a.m.
According to a press release from CES, the driver of the “school bus” type vehicle went unconscious. The bus, traveling northbound, went off the road and continued traveling for an estimated 0.25 miles, including going up and down a gravel pile near Fellman Machinery before traveling through a forested area and eventually hitting a large tree and stopping, Brad Nelson, CES health and safety officer said.
Because the 20 employees, who were being transported to Anchorage, weren’t from the area, it took dispatch a few minutes to figure out where the accident was and when the employees called, Nelson said.
“Then once we started responding out there, of course, we’re expecting a bus on the highway wreck sort of thing,” Nelson said. “No, it was way out in the trees. … Luckily some of the people that were uninjured went up to the highway and flagged us down.”
CES transported the seven injured employees to Central Peninsula Hospital.
Buddy Linson and Mike Walters from Buddy’s Garage in Soldotna pulled the bus out of the woods with a semi-truck at about 1 p.m. Michael Rogers from the Alaska State Troopers Bureau of Highway Patrol Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, inspected the bus for any mechanical problems at the scene, but could not comment on the incident. The bus was drivable from the scene.
Next of kin had been notified. The body was released to the state medical examiner’s office. The investigation is continuing.