The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Mail delayed after semi goes off road last week

Driver cited after big rig crashes near mile 27 of the Richardson Hwy


Valdez Star photo

The truck carrying the mail to Valdez ran off the highway last Wednesday, delaying the day's mail delivery, which began Thursday.

U.S. Mail and parcel delivery was delayed in Valdez last week after the semi-truck that hauls cargo for the post office went off the road, bending the cargo trailer and stranding the contents.

"You never expect to see anything like that," witness Mike McClelland said.

McClelland, age 20, was doing the bundle haul for the Alaska Dispatch - driving the newspapers from Anchorage to Valdez - and had been following the semi loaded with mail since Glennallen when the accident occurred.

Alaska State Troopers say the driver, Maurice Holland, age 44 of Anchorage, was later cited for negligent driving.

McClelland states he saw the truck drift to the shoulder several times as he followed the truck towards Thompson Pass, but not enough to cause concern.

"I looked, like, off to the right side, I was looking at something and then I look in front of me and I see his truck going off into the ditch," he said. "His truck just hopped up and down."

McClelland immediately stopped to aid the driver. Troopers say the semi was approximately 100 yards off the road, at Mile 27.8.

"I stopped and then I got about half way over and I saw him getting out of the truck, so I knew he was okay at least to get out of the truck," McClelland said. "I had him kind of just sit down. I didn't want him moving too much because he hit his head pretty hard he had a pretty good grapefruit welt on the side of his head."

He then briefly left the scene, which is out of cell phone range, to get help at the nearby DOT station.

"It was pretty wild," he said. "You never expect, driving behind one of those things, to just see `em go off the side of the road like that."

Post Master Jeff Avery was dispatched to the scene to watch over the truck and its cargo of mail until postal officials in Anchorage arranged for the removal of the mail later that night.

Post office spokeswoman Blessie Lochmann did not return phone calls to the Valdez Star regarding the accident and Avery said he could not comment.

While postal employees in Valdez sorted damaged mail last week and much of it was delivered, the extent of damage to mail or if any was destroyed during the accident is unknown.

A sheen of diesel leaked into small creeks running through the scene of the accident and an oil absorbing boom was placed at the scene.

Valdez Star photo

An oil absorbing barrier was placed in the creek to stem the leaking diesel coming from the truck after it ran off the Richardson Highway last Wednesday.

Troopers say DEC, DOT and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the spill.

McClelland said it appeared the truck was traveling at 65 to 70 miles per hour at the time of the accident and he did not see any corrective action by the driver as the truck careened into the brush on the opposite side of the road.

"When he went off the side, I didn't see any skid marks or anything," he said.

The next morning, McClelland saw the wreckage being hauled back towards Anchorage as he drove the newspapers to Valdez.

"That is pretty much what happened," he said. "It happened in a mere 10 seconds."


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