Multiple accidents lead to injuries, fatalities over weekend in Sterling, Cooper Landing

An Eagle River man was airlifted to the hospital with serious injuries after a head-on collision on the Sterling Highway Saturday afternoon.

The accident, which took place on mile 48 of the highway in Cooper Landing around 3:15 p.m., happened after the driver of a northbound Chevrolet Silverado crossed the centerline and struck a gray Ford F350 pickup, according to an online Alaska State Trooper dispatch.

The 63-year-old driver of the Chevrolet, Dennis B. Brandenburger, was taken by air ambulance to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The driver of the F350, Walter P. Lindl, 61, and his passenger reported that they had received minor injuries and declined emergency medical services, according to the dispatch. Troopers reported that occupants of both vehicles were wearing their seat belts at the time of the accident.

The incident was just one of a handful of crashes that snarled traffic and killed two people — including an 8-year-old boy — over the weekend.

On Friday, a Kasilof man suffered injuries after a single-vehicle motorcycle accident near mile 51 of the Sterling Highway. John J. Bezilla, 66, was taken to the emergency room at Central Peninsula Hospital after reacting late to a motor home merging into a pullout on the northbound side of the highway, according to an online trooper dispatch. Bezilla, who was driving a Harley Davidson, locked up his rear tire, laid the motorcycle down, and slid into the southbound ditch, according to troopers. Alcohol or drugs are not believed to be a factor in the collision.

Multiple accidents caused major roadway congestion and killed two people Thursday.

At about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, traffic was brought to a standstill for several miles along the Sterling Highway after an international semi-truck landed in a ditch near mile 49. The driver of the truck, Taumohaapai Filise, 43, of Anchorage, was driving north when he pulled aside to allow an oversized load to pass, according to a trooper dispatch. The passenger side of the semi slipped off the shoulder of the road, however, and landed in the ditch. The vehicle was eventually removed from the ditch and the road cleared by 5:30 p.m., according to troopers.

Noah Schwebach, 8, of Eagle River, was killed Thursday afternoon near mile 58.7 of the Sterling Highway, west of Cooper Landing after a “volleyball-sized” rock fell off the back of a rock truck and struck the windshield of the Volkswagen GTI Hatchback he was riding in. Miles 58 through 79 are under extensive construction for a highway improvement project and has large vehicles moving in and out of the area regularly.

Troopers wrote in a dispatch update Saturday that they were working with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and Granite Construction to determine what happened. The vehicle the rock came from has been tentatively identified and troopers are trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident, including what the vehicle was hauling at the time, according to the dispatch.

Witnesses or anyone with information are asked to call the Soldotna trooper post at 262-4453.

At around 5 p.m. Thursday, Sterling resident Michael Corteg, 60, was killed after his BMW motorcycle collided witha Chevy pickup truck on Peacefull Circle in Sterling. The Chevy had been trying to turn left onto Sandline Drive and saw the motorcyclist coming and tried to swerve left, but Corteg also swerved left and hit the front passenger side of the truck, according to an online trooper dispatch.

Corteg thrown off the bike and landed off the road with life-threatening injuries. He died at the scene, according to the dispatch. He had been wearing a helmet.

Elizabeth Earl contributed to this report.

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