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Car collides with Army truck; 2 hurt

Dawn Frazier
The SUV that collided with the Army wrecker was wedged so tightly that soldiers had to deflate the front tires to pull it loose from the truck.

JBER-based soldiers’ efforts to retrieve wrecked truck go awry when civilian vehicle slams into Army wrecker

Two people were injured Saturday when the vehicle they were riding in slammed into an Army wrecker on an icy stretch of the Richardson Highway just south of Birch Lake. The accident occurred while soldiers from Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson were trying to recover another Army truck that had wrecked in that same spot on Friday.

Tim Ellis/KUAC
After the collision, the wrecked car was removed and soldiers moved the Army wreckers and a flatbed truck off to the side to allow traffic that had been backed-up for nearly two hours to pass through the accident scene near milepost 301 of the Richardson Highway.

Saturday’s wreck happened around 11:30 a.m. near milepost 301 of the Richardson Highway, where a big Army truck had slid off the road and rolled the day before.

“On Friday, a vehicle from the … 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) out of JBER was involved in a vehicle rollover,” says Fort Wainwright spokesperson Eve Baker.

Baker said there were no injuries among the soldiers with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, who were operating the 8-wheeled Heavy Mobility Tactical Truck. She said in an interview Sunday that more soldiers from JBER returned to the area on Saturday with two heavy wreckers to extract the truck, which was laying on its side in the ditch off the southbound lane.

The soldiers were setting up emergency warning pylons around the site and had began stopping traffic, including the vehicle Dawn Frazier of Delta Junction was riding in.

“You could see there were triangles set up, and there was a GI standing there,” she said, referring to a soldier,” and he’s signaling me to slow down and to stop.”

Frazier says as she was approaching the soldier, she saw one of the big wreckers being maneuvered into place to enable it to latch onto the wrecked truck and winch it out.

“Obviously,” she said, “you could see that truck across the road, that military tow truck.”

Frazier said in an interview Sunday that her vehicle was the first in the northbound lane to be stopped, so she had a good vantage point at the head of the line to observe the operation.

Tim Ellis/KUAC
A civilian wrecker from Delta Junction removes the SUV damaged in the collision with the Army wrecker.

She watched as the soldiers began to tension the cable to pull the wrecked truck upright, when she noticed some sort of activity on the other side of the wrecker. So, she tried to get a better look.

“And just as I was doing that,” she said, “out of the corner of my eye, I could see something white.”

That something was a white SUV that had apparently passed all the other southbound vehicles that were lined up where they’d been stopped. Frazier said the SUV was headed straight toward the wrecker that was positioned across both lanes and hit the big rig almost head-on, wedging itself underneath the truck’s front end.

“I heard it go crunch,” she said, “and I had my windows closed!”

Frazier said a dozen or so soldiers immediately ran toward the SUV and removed its two occupants. Soon afterward, Alaska State Troopers arrived, as did a Salcha Fire and Rescue ambulance, which transported the victims to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Tim Ellis/KUAC
Vehicles were backed-up for about a mile in both directions as motorists waited for the wreckage to be cleared and the highway reopened.

Finally, two hours after the towing operation began, the roadway was cleared and traffic that had backed-up for more than a mile in both directions began moving again. The JBER soldiers returned to Fort Greely, where they’d been training, but they left the wrecked truck.

A Troopers spokesperson says they’re investigating the wreck – and, Baker says, so is the Army.

“Both incidents are under investigation,” she said, “so there’s not much else I can share at this time.”

Friday and Saturday’s wrecks were preceded by two similar accidents that occurred Oct. 28 with the same kind of Army 8-wheeled truck that’s sometimes called an Oshkosh, after the name of the manufacturer. Both of those trucks wrecked on the north side of Tenderfoot Hill, about 10 miles south of this weekend’s accidents.