Investigation of Seward Highway crash ongoing

Preliminary investigation of last weekend’s accident on the Seward Highway has revealed the tour bus involved crashed into the vehicles in front of it.

It appears three vehicles were stopped in the northbound lane of the Seward Highway, waiting for the front vehicle to make a turn, when the tour bus carrying 42 passengers crashed into them from behind just after noon on Friday, according to an Alaska State Trooper dispatch.

The bus then moved into the southbound lane where it collided with a 2011 GMC Yukon driven by 55-year-old John Zollner III, of Anchorage, who was later pronounced dead at the scene.

In all, six vehicles and two trailers were involved in the accident, which shut both lanes of the Seward Highway down for 10 hours, according to the dispatch.

Lt. Rick Roberts with the troopers said Alaskan vehicle accidents are unique in that they often occur in areas without detour options or far from trooper posts and other emergency resources. He said that when troopers are able to open a lane to let traffic ease through, they do.

“A lot of times… they don’t happen in a place that we would think of as convenient,” Roberts said. “Sometimes there just isn’t a detour route.”

Roberts said long wait times for highway accidents can be attributed to several factors.

Sometimes, the accident occurs on the opposite side of a trooper’s response area, so getting resources to the crash site takes longer. Depending on the severity of the accident, troopers and medical responders sometimes have to spend more time caring for victims on scene before they can start investigating and cleaning up, he said.

“Anytime somebody dies in a car crash… we kind of elevate the type of investigation we do,” Roberts said. “Someone’s loved one… has had a tragedy befall them. We don’t like to (close the road) but we appreciate people’s patience when we do have to.”

All vehicles involved in Friday’s accident have been impounded, and the investigation is ongoing.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com

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