Charlie Rediske of Reddi Towing and Salvage talks with Kenai police investigator David Ross and officer Jay Sjogren at the scene of an accident involving this truck on Willow Street on Saturday evening. Bystanders said the truck was traveling at a high rate of speed before it was stopped by the concrete base of a light pole it ripped from beneath the blacktop in a mall parking lot.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
A 21-year-old Nikiski man turned Willow Street in Kenai into a speedway Saturday afternoon, ramming cars, knocking over light poles and leaving parts of his vehicle strewn behind him for blocks.
The man was taken to the hospital by the Kenai Fire Department and is being treated for injuries that are not critical, according to Kenai Police Department Sgt. Randy Kornfield. No one else was injured.
Kornfield would not identify the driver by the Clarion’s press time Saturday, saying his department only releases that information when an investigation is complete or charges have been filed, and the investigation hadn’t progressed to that point Saturday.
The demolition derby began in the Kenai Municipal Airport short-term parking lot around 4 p.m. Saturday, where the man’s 1994 Ford F-350 pickup was parked. According to Kornfield, the driver backed into a chain barrier, wrapping the chain around either the front or rear axle of the truck. He drove forward into two parked vehicles and may have taken out another chain barrier on the way out of the parking lot.
“He still had a wrap of chain on his vehicle when it came to rest,” Kornfield said.
The truck turned right on Willow Street and sped toward the Kenai Spur Highway. Two light poles and two more parked cars kept him from getting that far.
The first pole was the stanchion on the lawn of the Kenai Fire Department at the corner of Willow and Main Street Loop that flashes to warn motorists when fire department vehicles are dispatched, “which indicated he crossed the road,” Kornfield said, since the fire department is on the east side of the road and he was or at least should have been traveling in the opposite lane.
The pole was snapped at ground level and left smashed in the road.
“Everyone in here saw it,” said Chris Fallon, owner of the recently opened Kenai branch of Jersey Subs, across Willow Street from the fire department.
“He was flying,” Fallon said. “He must have been doing 60 when he ran into the flashing light sign in front of the cop shop.
“He knocked it right out of the ground and it looked like he picked up speed after hitting it,” Fallon said.
The truck continued its destruction in the parking lot of the Willow Street Mall, which houses Peninsula Insta Care, as well as several other businesses.
“I don’t know if he hit two vehicles,” in the parking lot, Kornfield said. “He caused damage to two vehicles in the parking lot. He hit one and may have hit a shopping cart that hit another one.”
The melee was brought to a halt by a light pole in the parking lot. The force of the collision not only knocked the pole down, but ripped its barrel-sized cement anchor out of ground, leaving the truck high-centered on it.
“That’s incredible the amount of damage,” Kornfield said. “That he was able to hit that thing and get high-centered on it.
“Actually, we’re lucky he did, otherwise he probably would have plowed into Penney’s or the liquor store.”
No pedestrians or other drivers were involved, and the Nikiski man had no passengers in the truck.
“We’re very fortunate there were no other people,” Kornfield said. “Like I said, all the vehicles (that he hit) were unoccupied. As best as we know there were no pedestrians or other people in danger immediately in danger. Everybody on the road was in danger.”
Kornfield said police are investigating what led the man to treat Willow Street like a bumper car track. Alcohol doesn’t appear to be involved, and the man wasn’t reported to have been in a fight at the airport.
Police interviewed one witness at the airport parking lot and a police officer saw what happened farther down Willow Street.
The damage to the man’s truck also bore witness to the speed in which he was driving and colliding.
The truck’s bumper with the license plate still attached was in the road at the Fildago intersection. About 50 yards beyond that was the the truck’s roll bar. Beyond that was the smashed truck itself, its rear end perched atop the remains of the light pole.
Clarion reporter Joseph Robertia contributed to this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jenny Neyman can be reached at email@example.com.
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