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Two die in separate Labor Day Sterling Highway crashes

The speed limit increases from 55 to 65 heading east on the Sterling Highway, near the turn on to Skilak Lake Road.
Riley Board
A head-on collision at milepost 71.5 of the Sterling Highway left one Wisconsin woman dead.

Two separate fatal car crashes stalled traffic on the Sterling Highway Monday afternoon.

Troopers say they responded to a head-on collision between two vehicles around 3 p.m. at mile 71.5, east of Sterling near Watson Lake.

A trooper dispatch says 57-year-old Theodore Zielicke from Wisconsin was driving south when he crossed over the centerline, striking another vehicle head-on. That car was driven by 66-year-old Keith Cooke of North Carolina.

A passenger in Zielicke’s car, 59-year-old Wanda Zielicke, also from Wisconsin, died on the scene from her injuries. Both drivers suffered serious injuries.

Trooper spokesperson Austin McDaniel said the reason for the crash is still under investigation.

“At this time, the investigation is still ongoing, but there’s no indication that drugs or alcohol contributed to the collision in any way,” he said.

McDaniel said the Sterling Highway was closed in both directions for several hours, and drivers could use Skilak Lake Road as a detour. The highway fully reopened at 8 p.m.

On the same day, around 1:30 p.m., another fatal crash happened just south of Soldotna, at mile 100 of the highway. Troopers say 65-year-old Joseph Alcantra, of Clam Gulch, swerved off the road and collided with trees.

“Our preliminary investigation is that the driver and sole occupant experienced some type of medical emergency,” McDaniel said. “He then departed his lane of travel and collided with some trees off of the roadway.”

Alcantra was declared dead at the scene, despite the lifesaving efforts of civilians, police and EMS, troopers report.

McDaniel said there were minor road closures as a result of the crash, but no lengthy disruption.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Wanda Zielicke as Wanda Cook.

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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