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Parks Highway, AK Sightseeing Bus And Truck Crash, Jul 1993

BUS-TRUCK COLLISION ON PARKS HIGHWAY KILLS 5.

By Rosanne Pagano
Associated Press Writer
Anchorage (AP) - Four boys in a pickup truck were killed along with the driver of a sightseeing bus in a fiery head-on wreck on the Parks Highway, south of Denali National Park.
At least two bus passengers remained hospitalized today following the crash Wednesday in a no-passing zone of the Parks Highway, south of the park and about 100 miles north of Anchorage.
Other passengers were either rescued from the burning bus or escaped on their own. The bus was operated by Alaska Sightseeing-Cruise West of Anchorage. Passengers were from at least eight states, including Alaska.
Alaska State Troopers identified the bus driver as MICHAEL ROGERS, 29, of Anchorage.
The accident on a remote, curved section of road occurred north of Big Susitna River Bridge around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday as the bus with 16 people on board was southbound for Anchorage from the park.
Twin brothers SIMON and GRAHAM LEE, 15, of Trapper Creek were killed in the northbound pickup along with STEPHEN SMITH, 16, of Willow, and JASON LINK, 12, of Trapper Creek, troopers said.
It was not immediately known who was driving or if the boys died of impact injuries or from the fire, trooper's spokesman Steve Wilhelmi said.
Traffic snarled for miles as the highway was closed to accommodate a helicopter and ambulances that arrived from as far as 60 miles away. Rescue crews praised passersby who worked in vain to save ROGERS from the burning bus.
Truckers used two semis and a chain to pull the burning pickup from its resting place under the bus. One truck driver, Tom Burgess, told KSKA radio he helped others work to free ROGERS from his seat, where the driver was strapped in calling for help.
"He wouldn't come," Burgess said.
Army Sgt. David Lancaster, an infantry platoon leader from Fort Richardson in Anchorage, said he was fishing at nearby Rabideaux Creek with a friend when they heard the crash, grabbed a first aid kit and rushed to help.
Lancaster told the Anchorage Daily News he and his friend, Robert Brantley of Georgia, unfastened ROGERS' seat belt and tried to pull him free but the driver's foot was stuck in wreckage.
Rescuers were eventually forced back as flames engulfed the bus and left it a charred skeleton on the roadside.
"All the way home I've been thinking about that driver," Lancaster told the Daily News later.
"He kept saying, 'Help me!' I was standing out there watching, but there was nothing we could do."
The National Transportation Safety Board in Anchorage said inspectors from Los Angeles were due in today to take over the investigation. The Alaska office concentrate on aviation disasters.
Brent Behler, safety board spokesman in Washington, D.C., said cause of the accident would take at least nine months to develop. He said he could not immediately confirm reports that a woman aboard the bus had seen the truck swerve into the bus lane moments before the wreck.
The safety board investigation will review maintenance and operations of the bus, driver training and fatigue, road conditions, weather and other factors that could have contributed to a wreck, Behler said.
The board has jurisdiction over some highway accidents when elements may have national implications, such as an accident involving a motor coach in use elsewhere, Behler said.

Daily Sitka Sentinel Alaska 1993-07-15

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