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Police investigation continues in Auke Lake death

Posted: June 28, 2012 - 12:04am

The Juneau Police Department is asking anyone who witnessed Saturday’s fatal jet ski and inner tube collision at Auke Lake to call police if they haven’t already.

Lt. Kris Sell says JPD is in the early phases of interviewing potential witnesses and reconstructing the crash that resulted in the death of 16-year-old Savannah Cayce, a junior at Juneau-Douglas High School.

Sell didn’t say how many people JPD has interviewed so far, but she estimated approximately 50 people were at the lake on Saturday as temperatures soared up to 80 degrees.

“We are trying to talk to everybody,” Sell said.

Police told the Empire earlier that they are required to conduct investigations into unattended deaths — meaning when doctors aren’t present — to ensure no laws were violated.

Once the police investigation is complete, JPD will submit its report to the district attorney’s office to determine if charges should be filed.

Cayce suffered a severe head injury around 4:40 p.m. Saturday when the inner tube she and another 16-year-old girl were on — which was being towed by a jet ski — was struck by another jet ski, police said in a statement.

Both girls were injured in the collision and were taken to the hospital. The friend was treated for a bump on her head, but Cayce was medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She died Monday morning.

Sell declined to discuss details of the ongoing investigation, and the names of the drivers of the jet skis are still being withheld.

Sell also declined to characterize the nature of the crash, saying that it’s too early to tell.

“We’re going at this investigation with just an open mind,” she said, “that we’re going to listen to what people saw and what people heard until we can piece the whole thing together.”

The investigation is being headed by JPD Officer Brian Dallas.

In addition to patrol officers and detectives, JPD also pulled in a part-time reserve police officer and another officer who was supposed to be in a training class to get more hands in on the investigation, Sell said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers are also assisting, Sell said, particularly because JPD does not specialize in water traffic and watercraft investigations, Sell said.

“We are definitely looking to the experts to help us interpret things,” she said.

Finding actual witnesses to the collision is a time-consuming task, Sell said. She likened it to a car crash where many people didn’t see what happened, but did see the immediate aftermath since the disturbance is what attracts the attention.

Given the charged emotional circumstances, there’s been a lot of conversations where sometimes stories change, albeit slightly, Sell said.

“It’s kind of like playing the telephone game,” Sell said. “... You need to wade through all of that, and get back to what was actually seen.”

Potential witnesses to the collision can call JPD at 586-0600.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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