Fatal week: 3 highway fatalities occur in 1 week; 2 children killed

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This past week has been a dangerous one on several Kenai Peninsula highways, as three vehicular fatalities have occurred, two of which were children.

On Sunday, the most recent accident occurred at about 8 p.m., when Alaska State Troopers were notified of a head-on collision at Mile 88 of the Seward Highway.

Annette Knofel, 59, of Seward, was killed when a 2003 red Ford F150 pickup driven by Thomas Lorah, 27, of Anchorage, swerved into oncoming traffic and truck struck a 2006 blue Ford Escape. Knofel was a passenger in the Escape, which was driven by Bruce Knofel, 60, of Seward. Annette died on the scene. Bruce and Lorah were transported to Providence Hospital in Anchorage for treatment of what appeared to be nonlife-threatening injuries.

The highway was closed for 6 1/2 hours following the collision. The investigation is ongoing.

Another accident occurred Friday evening at approximately 8:10 p.m., when troopers received several 911 calls reporting a head-on collision at Mile 76.6 of the Seward Highway.

A green Subaru Legacy station wagon driven by Peter Mandel, 45, of Anchorage, was hit by a 2001 blue Ford passenger van driven by Rick Langfitt, 51, of Kodiak, who was transporting seven juveniles from the Kodiak American League baseball team back to Kodiak.

Langfitt crossed into the northbound lane and the opposing fog line, according to troopers. Both drivers took evasive action, trying to avoid the collision, but the van still impacted the Subaru on the passenger side.

Seth Mandel, 11, of Anchorage, who was sitting in the rear seat on the passenger side, was pronounced dead at the scene. Molly Mandel, 7, of Anchorage, and Peter Mandel were taken to Providence.

All of the juveniles in the van suffered minor injuries. They were Austin T. Cowley, 16; Joshua O. Benzona, 15; Mikel J. Garner, 16; Clifford R. Anderson, 16; Raphael Isaia-Matautia, 17; Alec J. Eastman, 15; and Derrek H. D. Deal, 15. Langfitt was unharmed.

The highway was closed for about 4 1/2 hours. The cause is still under investigation.

On Friday evening, troopers also released the names of six people injured in a motor-vehicle collision earlier in the week in Nikiski.

Troopers said at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, the driver of a Subaru sedan traveling south on the Kenai Spur Highway became distracted and crossed the center line, colliding with a Ford Explorer at Mile 19.5, just north of the intersection of South Miller Loop.

The driver of the Subaru was Jamie Locke, 25, of Kenai. Locke's son, Axel, 4, and daughter, Eleanor, 3, were passengers in the rear seat of the Subaru.

Eleanor "Ellie" Locke was life-flighted by helicopter to Providence with serious injuries, but she did not survive.

The driver of the Explorer was Lisa Bismark, 37, of Soldotna. Passengers in the vehicle were Bismark's finance, Cornell Constantine, 43, and Bismark's son, Lucas Standifer, 6.

All six people were taken to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna.

An account has been established to help offset the medical expenses accrued by the Locke family. Donations are being accepted at all branches of Wells Fargo Bank, under the account name: Bridges/The Locke Family Fund. Donations also may be made at Country Foods in Kenai.

For more information on donations, contact Crystal Wynn at 740-1557.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.

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