A van loaded with Soldotna teens returning from a church conference in Anchorage skidded out of control on black ice Sunday morning, rolled several times and landed in a ditch off the side of the Seward Highway.
The driver said nothing short of a miracle saved everyone from serious injury.
Black ice caught numerous drivers by surprise near Mile 60 of the Seward Highway near Hope at about 9 a.m. Sunday according to Alaska State Trooper reports.
At 9:05 a.m., troopers responded to the report of the van accident at Mile 60.2 and found a 2000 Ford Excursion driven by Janet M. Shapely, 45, of Soldotna, was southbound on the highway when it hit a patch of black ice and the driver lost control of the vehicle.
The van skidded across the northbound lane, went into the ditch a rolled several times coming to rest on its side.
Shapely, three 17-year-olds and four teens ages 14 and 15 were treated at the scene by Moose Pass medics. Three of the teens were taken to Central Peninsula General Hospital and two were taken to Providence Seward Medical Center for further treatment. All were treated and released.
The vehicle was totaled.
Shapely said the group was returning home from an Anchorage Youth Conference when the accident occurred.
She was traveling about 60 mph and until that point, the roads were just wet, she recalled. Suddenly the van started skidding and went out of control.
"We slid both ways and it's just lucky we went across to the other side of the road instead of going over the embankment," she said Monday.
"It was very, very frightening."
One of the passengers, a 17-year-old female lifeguard from Soldotna High School, began providing first aid to other injured passengers, according to Shapely, and a passing motorist, identified later as Kevin Brown, stopped and let others go into his vehicle to keep warm.
"He was a total stranger, and he stayed with us the whole time," Shapely said.
"Then he went to Seward so there would be an adult with the injured kids who went there," she said.
At about the same time, troopers responded to another report of a vehicle rollover one-tenth of a mile from the van accident.
A 2002 Isuzu Axiom sedan driven by Patrick L. Rex, 39, of Anchorage, was going south at Mile 60.1 of the Seward Highway when he, too, hit a patch of black ice, lost control of his car and skidded across the northbound lanes and into the ditch.
Rex's car came to rest on its roof. He was wearing a seat belt and injured his back. He was treated at the scene by Moose Pass medics and released. Damage to his vehicle was estimated at $10,000.
Shapely said that while some of her passengers were putting signal flares on the highway to alert other motorists of the van accident, a car pulling a boat started skidding out of control on the ice.
The boat came off its trailer and the driver was then able to regain control of the car, she said. He stopped safely alongside the highway.
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