Alcohol a factor in crash death

Troopers find beer, whiskey in vehicle that crossed center line

Posted: Friday, November 04, 2005

Alcohol is believed to be a factor in a traffic accident that left one man dead Wednesday evening on the Sterling Highway near Ninilchik.

According to Alaska State Troopers, at 5:36 p.m. Gabriel Ritchie, 32, of Homer, was driving northbound in a blue and gold 1989 Chevy pickup truck on the highway at Mile 128.5 when he crossed the center line and struck a tan 2005 pickup driven by Linda Witzel, 38, of Homer. After striking Witzel’s truck, Ritchie’s vehicle continued on and struck a 1999 Dodge pickup driven by Paul Davis, 59, of Homer.

Ritchie was pronounced dead at the scene. Paul Davis and his wife, Caron, 53, were transported to Central Peninsula General Hospital, where they were treated for minor injuries and released. Witzel was treated for minor injuries and released at the scene.

According to troopers, open beer containers and a partially-consumed bottle of whiskey were found in and around Ritchie’s truck. A blood draw was taken from his body and sent for evaluation.

Ritchie has a history of alcohol-related problems. A state records check indicates Ritchie has been charged in the past with minor consuming alcohol and was convicted in 1992 of driving while intoxicated. In addition, at the time of Wednesday’s accident, records indicate he was facing a charge from a drunken driving incident that allegedly occurred last month.

The Davis own Bluedawg Bed and Boat, a bed and breakfast and guiding operation they run out of their home off of Diamond Ridge Road near Homer.

On Thursday, Paul Davis said he and his wife are doing fine, with the exception of a couple minor injuries.

“I’ve got a pretty messed up ankle and my wife has a chipped wrist, but other than that we’re okay,” he said.

Davis said he was driving southbound on the highway when he saw Ritchie’s truck cross into oncoming traffic.

“A pickup came over the center line and clipped the mirror and door handle of the truck in front of me. There was a guard rail there, and I had nowhere to go. He hit me pretty much head-on,” he said.

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