Troopers say alcohol likely a factor in fatal ATV crash

In three separate incidents last week, vehicle crashes killed a Wasilla woman and injured two Homer women. Police and troopers said all three incidents involved alcohol.

The most serious incident happened about 6:20 p.m. July 4 when a Wasilla woman flipped her all-terrain vehicle while crossing Stariski Creek north of Anchor Point. Shelby Caven, 22, was taken by medevac helicopter to Providence Alaska Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at about 3:25 a.m. July 5. Next of kin have been notified.

Caven had been driving the ATV with a passenger, Jaclyne Schacle, 22, also of Wasilla, near Whiskey Gulch when she tried to cross the mouth of Stariski Creek, Alaska State Troopers said in a press release. 

The ATV hit a bump on the creek bottom, causing the ATV to flip forward. Neither woman wore a helmet, said trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.

The force of the crash pinned Caven between the handlebars and Schacle when Schacle was thrown into her, Peters said. Witnesses said Caven stood up and then fell into the water.

Other ATV riders picked her up and took her to the Sterling Highway, where she was met by Anchor Point Emergency Medical Services medics and taken to South Peninsula Hospital.

Caven was later flown to Anchorage. Schacle had minor injuries.

Peters said Alaska Wildlife Troopers had contacted a group of people on the beach earlier that included Caven. She said wildlife troopers noticed people had been drinking and some appeared drunk, although it’s not known if Caven was one of the people troopers suspected to be impaired. Parked ATVs were nearby and troopers warned the people not to ride while impaired.

“We did that with lots of groups of people,” Peters said of contacts with people on the beach.

As is routine in fatal crashes, a blood draw was taken of Caven, but results won’t be forthcoming for several weeks and it is not known yet if she was under the influence.

Earlier in the week, on July 2, Homer Police arrested Gerald H. Grappi, 66, of Homer for driving under the influence and third-degree assault after he pulled out in front of a motorcycle rider on Pioneer Avenue. 

According to a criminal complaint by Sgt. Ryan Browning, at about 6:45 p.m. July 2, Grappi made a left turn onto Pioneer Avenue from Svedlund Street when a Honda motorcycle driven by Bonnie Nelson, 63, hit Grappi’s Dodge van. Witnesses said Grappi pulled out in front of the motorcycle. That intersection is notorious for having poor visibility from Svedlund of west-bound traffic on Pioneer.

Nelson suffered numerous broken bones to her right leg and right wrist and had to be medevaced to an Anchorage hospital, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said.

Browning said in his complaint that he noticed signs of impairment in Grappi. Grappi failed field sobriety tests and at about 7:30 p.m. did a Datamaster breath alcohol test with a result of .128 percent.

On July 1, another Homer woman was injured in a single-car crash when she rolled her Toyota 4Runner near Mile 9 East End Road. Troopers said Amelia Robertson, 24, rolled her car several times when she made a right-hand turn onto Walter Drive from East End Road. 

Troopers said Robertson made the turn at a high rate of speed. Robertson was able to get herself out of the car after it stopped rolling. She was taken to South Peninsula Hospital with injuries. 

In a press release, troopers said alcohol is a factor in the crash. No charges have been filed and the investigation is continuing. Results of a toxicology test are pending, Peters said.

In another incident on the Kenai Peninsula that troopers suspect is alcohol related, on Saturday Patrick Wallace, 29, of Houston, died after falling off a 100-foot cliff in Seward. Troopers had been trying to contact Wallace after he failed to stop while riding a mini four-wheeler. Wallace abandoned the ATV and witnesses at a campground said they saw him. Troopers searched for Wallace and found him at the bottom of the cliff.

Troopers and police also arrested three other drivers for DUI on the lower peninsula over the Fourth of July weekend. In Anchor Point on July 4, troopers arrested Sharlene Crumley, 43, of Anchor Point after receiving a “report every dangerous driver immediately” complaint. Troopers stopped her car at a gas station in Anchor Point on the Sterling Highway and arrested her for DUI while under the influence of drugs.

On July 4 in Homer, police at about 8:15 p.m. made a routine traffic stop on Lillian Bear, 57, on the Sterling Highway in town, and arrested her for DUI and eluding police. 

On July 6 at about 1:40 a.m. while doing a security check at a Pioneer Avenue bar, police contacted James Harmon, 56, and arrested him for DUI.

Statewide over the Fourth of July weekend, troopers made 24 DUI arrests and charged 28 drivers with driving while license revoked or suspended, according to a press release. Troopers investigated 24 damage-only crashes, three crashes with injuries and one fatal crash, the ATV crash that killed Caven.

They issued 1,524 citations, of which 847 were for speeding and 102 for seat belt violations. Kenai Police also made three DUI arrests. Troopers also contacted 195 drivers who were called in as “report every dangerous driver immediately” complaints but who were ultimately determined not to be driving under the influence.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.