Head-on collision kills 2 near Soldotna

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2001

A Soldotna homesteader and a Kenai man died Wednesday in a head-on collision just east of Soldotna.

Sgt. Barry Wilson of the Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna said a white 1989 Ford LTD Crown Victoria driven by William J. Squire, 24, of Kenai, was traveling toward Anchorage when it drifted across the center line and struck a yellow 1979 Mercedes 300 driven by Virgil O. Dahler, 82, of Soldotna.

Both men were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which occurred at about 11:45 a.m. at Mile 90.7 Sterling Highway, by the turnoff to Solid Rock Bible Camp.

There were no passengers in either car.

Dahler moved from Minnesota to Alaska on March 31, 1939, according to an account he gave for the book "Once Upon the Kenai," compiled by the Kenai Historical Society. He helped build the Alaska Railroad and enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Richardson shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Dahler returned to Alaska in 1946 and homesteaded by Mile 89.5 Sterling Highway in 1947. A bulldozer operator, he helped build the air field at Bethel, Elmendorf Air Force Base, the Seward and Sterling highways, Anchorage International Airport and the road and pad to the first oil well at Swanson River. Jim Dahler Road, near Mile 90 Sterling Highway, was named after Dahler and his good friend James Bergsrud.

Wilson said there were no skid marks to indicate that either driver braked to avoid the collision. He found no clues to indicate why Squire had drifted across the center line. There was no indication that alcohol was a factor, he said, but the state medical examiner will screen both victims for signs of intoxication. Dahler wore a seat belt, but there was no sign that Squire wore one.

Troopers, Soldotna police and the U.S. Forest Service responded to the accident. Central Emergency Services sent two ambulances, a rescue truck and nine rescuers.

CES Capt. Randy Willis said both victims were trapped in their vehicles. Dahler was crushed between the steering wheel and the seat, and was dead when medics arrived. Squire stopped breathing as medics extricated him from the car.

Trooper Lt. Tom Bowman said the Sterling Highway was closed for about 30 minutes, and it was about an hour and a half before both lanes were opened to traffic.



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