Ski guides lauded in road rescue
Fatal wreck survivor aided by ski helicopter
George Keeney, chief of the Valdez Fire Department is sending out a well-deserved thank you to Valdez Heli-Guides after the operators of the helicopter skiing operation interrupted a guided tour to come to the aid of a Valdez woman who was critically injured in a wreck on the Richardson Highway that included a fatality.
“They totally shut-down their whole process,” to help in the badly needed rescue Keeney said. “That was just to help somebody in need, that’s what they did do.”
Alaska State Troopers say they were alerted to the accident at 2:23 p.m., Friday, which occurred at Mile 53.7 of the Richardson Highway.
“Initial investigation indicates a 2006 Toyota truck, driven by Patrick Mullen, 29, of Glennallen, was headed southbound when the truck started fishtailing and crossed into opposite lane of traffic,” Troopers said in a statewide dispatch. “The front end of a northbound 2008 Dodge Nitro, driven by Ronald Wilkinson, 37, of Valdez, struck the truck behind the driver's side door. The truck rolled an unknown number of times and came to rest on its roof in the northbound lane. The Dodge bounced around off of the snow berm, but remained in the northbound lane until it came to rest still upright.”
Mullen was pronounced dead at the scene. However, Valdez woman Shannon Keithley, age 37, the driver’s side passenger in the Dodge, was in critical need of trauma care.
Keeney said emergency responders requested a response from Life Flight.
“Weather-wise, they couldn’t get to it,” Keeney said.
That is when the crew and helicopter from Valdez Heli-Guides stepped in.
“They did a fantastic job,” Keeney said. “We transported the rest of them – from Kenny Lake ambulance and Valdez ambulance,” to the Valdez hospital.
Troopers say three minors in the backseat of the Dodge were transported by ambulance to Providence Valdez Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.
“Everybody worked real good together,” Keeney said, “Valdez police were great, too.”
Ironically, troopers say all three backseat passengers – who ranged in age from 6 to 15 years - were not wearing seatbelts.
Mullen, who died during the accident, was wearing a seat belt. Troopers said next of kin were notified and Mullen’s body was sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy.