Southeast Alaska’s fishing communities are mourning four people killed in a vehicle wreck south of Petersburg. It’s believed the late model SUV went off Mitkof Highway sometime Monday night.
On Tuesday morning Alaska State Troopers received a report that a group had headed to Blind Slough on Mitkof Island the day before and was overdue to return. While troopers were responding they were informed of a wreck near 27-mile of Mitkof Highway. Alaska Wildlife Troopers arrived on scene and confirmed all four occupants of a 2000 Ford Excursion, the party they were checking on, were deceased.
Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department’s Dave Berg was on the scene.
“We got there we found a large SUV, late model SUV that had gone off the road some time late last night,” Berg said Tuesday. “When we got there we were able to access the car by climbing down the bank and we found four occupants of the car that perished at the time of the crash.”
Troopers identified those killed as: Siguard Decker, 21 and his 19-year-old sister Helen Decker, both of Wrangell. Ian Martin, 29 of Petersburg and Dennis Lord, 37 of Elmira Heights, New York were also confirmed dead.
The site is south of the Greens Camp camping area and the SUV was traveling southbound. Berg said the vehicle apparently missed a left hand curve and went off the highway over a steep embankment.
“We noticed some tire tracks on the road, some skid marks, not very many though,” Berg said. “It looked like the driver may have tried to correct with over speed to correct too much around the turn and lost control of the vehicle. It went off the road and went approximately 200 feet into the trees alongside the road, along the length of the road but down the steep embankment and we envision that it probably turned, rolled a couple of times, hit a large tree, spun around it and finally came to a stop.”
The deceased were transported to the Petersburg Medical Center.
Bob Thorstenson Jr. manages the two seiners — F/V Magnus Martens of Juneau and F/V Vigilant of Petersburg — that the crew had been fishing on. He says the Decker siblings were close family friends that had just wrapped up purse seining on Sunday.
He said Sig Decker had been seriously commercial fishing since he was 15. It was his sister Helen’s second season but he says she showed incredible skill in some of the roughest weather he’d seen.
“I’ve never seen a brother and sister team, ever, in the world of fisheries,” he said Tuesday evening. “They were like the Michael Jordan and Vanessa Williams together — that’s how rockstar they were.”
He says the crew had come into Petersburg to meet a marine mechanic after one of their vessels had engine trouble.
“Otherwise we wouldn’t have been on this island with this godforsaken highway, you know,” he said, “it’s just that highway has gobbled up a lot of people over the years.”
An initial investigation by state Troopers shows the vehicle left the road at high speed and impacted multiple trees. Troopers say everyone was wearing seatbelts and airbags had deployed.
Troopers are continuing to gather evidence at the scene on Wednesday, spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
“Investigation indicates that speed and alcohol are factors,” she wrote in an email Wednesday. “Toxicology tests will be a part of the autopsy; results take awhile to come back. The troopers haven’t confirmed to me yet which individual was driving. They are out on scene again today doing follow up.”
This story has been updated with additional reporting from CoastAlaska’s Jacob Resneck in Juneau and to reflect that the four occupant of the car has been identified by Alaska State Troopers.