Crash spurs search of Sixmile Creek

Posted: Monday, May 16, 2005

A man so drunk he couldn't remember if he had passengers in his car caused Alaska State Troopers to prepare for the worst when responding to his wreck on the Seward Highway early Sunday morning.

According to Sgt. Mark Riddling, Paul Fisher, 19, of Anchorage, drove his 1990 Acura off the highway and into Sixmile Creek near Mile 59 of the Seward Highway. Troopers got a call at 5:26 a.m. reporting a man dripping wet and standing in the middle of the highway.

"Troopers went out there and the guy's wet, cold and very intoxicated," Riddling said.

The vehicle was nearly totally submerged. Fisher had swam free of the car and was not injured, but couldn't tell troopers if anyone else was involved in the crash.

"He was so drunk he didn't know if he had anybody in the car with him," Riddling said.

Troopers were worried that if there was someone else in the car, they were as drunk as Fisher.

"It was certainly a concern," Riddling said of the situation. "If he had a passenger, did a passenger get out if they were in a similar state of intoxication?"

Preparing for the worst, troopers called in a dive team to search for victims but the divers were unable to do so safely in Sixmile's fast-moving water.

The creek is popular with thrill-seeking whitewater rafters for its Class IV and V rapids as it winds through narrow canyons with towering walls and drops over 50 feet per mile in its path out of the Chugach Mountains.

"We wound up getting the dive crew out, but they didn't want to swim because Sixmile Creek is such a fast-moving, dangerous area that to get in there all loaded up with scuba gear can be life-threatening itself."

Instead, a helicopter from Anchorage was brought in to search the length of Sixmile Creek downstream of the wreck.

"A body could get washed a long way in that water," Riddling said.

The helicopter found no signs of anyone in the water and when the car was pulled out with a tow rope around 2 p.m. Sunday, no one was inside.

"We haven't found anybody yet and we hope we don't," Riddling said around 3:15 p.m. Sunday.

Riddling said he thought Fisher was processed at the Girdwood trooper post and taken to jail in Anchorage on a drunk driving charge.

Troopers were still investigating the incident Sunday afternoon, but it appeared that Fisher just drove off the road and no other vehicles were involved.

"It's hard to pay attention when you're double drunk," Riddling said.



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