Fatalities mar holiday weekend

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Monday, July 7, 2014 10:31pm
  • News

Two separate accidental deaths on the Kenai Peninsula put a damper on the Fourth of July weekend.

A Wasilla woman died in an all-terrain vehicle accident Friday in Anchor Point. On Saturday, a Houston man was found dead at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff in Seward after Alaska State Troopers attempted to contact him earlier in the evening for failure to yield while on a mini four-wheeler.

Shelby Caven, 23, was driving the ATV with a passenger, 22-year-old Jaclyne Schachle of Wasilla, along Whiskey Gulch beach Friday at about 6:20 p.m. when the accident was reported to troopers.

Caven, who was camping nearby, attempted to cross the mouth of Stariski Creek when she struck the south side of the creek bottom, which caused the ATV to flip forward and tip over. The impact caused Caven to hit the handlebars with her chest, while Schachle was sitting behind her, trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said.

Caven initially stood up following the crash but then collapsed into the water. Schachle suffered minor injuries from the accident. Fellow ATV riders picked up Caven and drove her to the Sterling Highway and Anchor Point paramedics transported her to South Peninsula Hospital in Homer. From there, Caven was flown to Providence Medical Hospital in Anchorage, according to the report.

Caven died from her injuries at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

Alcohol is believed to be a factor in this case, according to the trooper report. Peters said toxicology reports take 6 to 8 weeks to come back.

“We know people are out having a good time and it’s OK that they are drinking but we encourage people to not operate a vehicle,” Peters said. “We want people to have a good time but have a plan and stay safe.”

While the accident in Seward on Saturday also involved an ATV, it did not contribute to the man’s death, Peters said.

Patrick Wallace, 29, was found at the bottom of a cliff 90 minutes after troopers had attempted to pull him over while he was riding a mini four-wheeler, for a traffic violation near the intersection of Vinewood Lane and Bruno Road near Seward.

Peters said Wallace abandoned the four-wheeler, later found by troopers. Troopers were not actively pursuing him until campers in the Stoney Creek RV Park called dispatch to report they saw the suspect matching Wallace’s description walking down a hill near the park.

Units attempted to locate Wallace in the area for 30 minutes when he was discovered at the bottom of a cliff around midnight, according to the trooper dispatch.

The State Medical Examiner requested the body be sent to Anchorage for an autopsy.

Peters said troopers don’t know why he fled because they didn’t get a chance to talk to him.

“Unfortunately he was not found alive,” Peters said. “It’s a horrible end to a holiday celebration for families to deal with a fatality.”

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said his department made three DUI arrests over the Fourth of July weekend. Two of the arrests involved drivers who left the scene of an accident on Auk Street after 1 a.m. Friday.

Samuel Mesa, 21, of Kenai and Benjamin Haakenson, 29, of Soldotna were arrested seven minutes apart, Sandahl said. Mesa was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident and for violating conditions of release. Haakenson was arrested for a DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. Both men were taken to Wildwood Pretrial Facility.

Sandahl said Kenai police also received three separate reports of lost kids during the Fourth of July Festival at the Green Strip Park, but all three children were found.

With the holiday festivals in Girdwood, Seward and Kenai, Peters said troopers know from experience how many people are out on the roadways and campgrounds and plan for making contacts with people and provide safety reminders. Add alcohol to the mix and situations could be dangerous, Peters said.

With increased enforcement during the Independence Day weekend, Peters said the trooper’s presence was noticeable. Statistics on how many DUI arrests made over the weekend are not yet available, she said.

“We know there is a lot of activity with all those people coming and going and unfortunately when groups collide bad things can happen,” she said. “We want people to have fun, but it is more important they are safe.”

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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