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Cooper Landing crash lands six in hospital

The Sterling Highway through Cooper Landing in late 2020.
Sabine Poux
The Sterling Highway through Cooper Landing in late 2020.

Amid the first major snowfall of the season, a three-car accident in Cooper Landing Wednesday near Gwin’s Lodge sent six people to the hospital and temporarily closed the Sterling Highway in both directions. Cooper Landing Emergency Services, the local volunteer-based response organization, was on the scene, with help from Central Emergency Services out of Sterling, as well as Alaska State Troopers.

Dan Osborn is the new Fire Chief at CLES. He said accidents of this scale are rare, probably one or two a year. However, when they do happen, they require a lot of the Cooper Landing services. Of the eight passengers involved in Wednesday’s accident, five had to be extracted using the jaws of life.

“We have the equipment, but this time of year especially, we just are really short on numbers of volunteers. Like, that day in particular, every volunteer who was available was on that incident,” Osborn said.

Because the responders are volunteers, Osborn said, they’ll often have other commitments that make it difficult to put together a group of responders for an accident the size of Wednesday’s.

That incident required two vehicles from Cooper Landing Emergency Services, additional ambulances from Central Emergency Services and Troopers for traffic control.

According to a Facebook post from CLES, 17% of all crashes occur during winter driving conditions. Although Wednesday’s accident is still being investigated by State Troopers, Obsorne said it was likely the result of a driver rounding a corner too quickly, losing traction and bouncing between the guard rail and other vehicles.

“We have a lot of icy corners, driving for conditions, slowing down, having a good following distance behind vehicles, having your headlights on, and having as good of tires as you can have,” he said.

Osborn said drivers heading through the Cooper Landing area this time of year should watch their speed — especially along the river, where moisture accumulates — and always wear a seatbelt.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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