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Kiefer: Complete JPD investigation before review of Auke Lake use rules

Posted: July 1, 2012 - 12:09am
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From left, Juneau Police Department Chief Greg Browning and City Manager Kim Kiefer talk to media Friday at the Juneau Assembly Chambers about the ongoing investigation into Savannah Cayce's death.  Mark D. Miller / Juneau Empire
Mark D. Miller / Juneau Empire
From left, Juneau Police Department Chief Greg Browning and City Manager Kim Kiefer talk to media Friday at the Juneau Assembly Chambers about the ongoing investigation into Savannah Cayce's death.

The investigation into a collision on Auke Lake that killed 16-year-old Juneau resident Savannah Cayce last weekend must be carried out to completion before a review of practices there can be conducted, City Manager Kim Kiefer said Friday.

Speaking at a press availability in the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Chambers alongside Juneau Police Department Chief Greg Browning, Kiefer expressed her “deepest sympathy” to those affected by the incident.

But Kiefer said it is too early to tell if any regulations governing the use of Auke Lake should be changed.

“I believe there are regulations in place to try and keep people safe, but until the investigation is complete, I can’t tell you if any change of regulations would have made a difference,” said Kiefer. “We want to make sure we have a complete investigation to know the actual cause before we go into the review of what’s currently in place.”

According to police, Cayce was critically injured last Saturday when the inner tube on which she and another 16-year-old girl were being towed behind a jet ski struck another jet ski in the water. She died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle Monday.

Kiefer said towing safety on Auke Lake would be a subject of review.

“There are a lot of variables that will go into that, and that will be part of what we’ll look at after the investigation is complete,” Kiefer said.

“We’re doing a pretty thorough review of boating safety laws and rules as part of this investigation,” Browning added. “I can tell you that’s not something we do that often, but that is something that we are doing as part of this investigation.”

But even if the investigation and review conclude that new rules on the lake should be adopted, Browning said there would be obstacles to the JPD enforcing them.

“It would be difficult without a boat,” Browning said. “We don’t really have the equipment at this time. We don’t have the training. We don’t have certifications that need to be in place to be able to do that type of policing.”

Browning suggested that one option, among others, could be to privatize enforcement at Auke Lake.

“We’re interested in looking at all possible ways of making Auke Lake a safer place,” said Browning.

Kiefer said she thinks the incident will prompt people to more studiously observe the rules on the lake.

“I think what people need to do is stay in the areas that are designated,” Kiefer said. “I think this also has heightened people to make sure they’re in the area they need to be in based on the regulations that are in place now.”

But research biologist Tom Rutecki, a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, said that answer did not satisfy him.

“Boats don’t stick to the motorized areas,” said Rutecki, referring to the part of the lake marked by buoys in which motorized vehicles are permitted to operate. “They use those buoys for (a) slalom course. So I think it’s dangerous, and I think the fact that they’re downplaying the danger is a disservice to public safety.”

Rutecki said he was heartened by talk of tighter enforcement, but he said in the mean time, he does not think the lake is safe.

“I think waiting until the investigation is over and assuring the public it’s safe, I just don’t think that’s right,” Rutecki said. He added, “If we get another nice day and they just let things go as usual, who knows what could happen?”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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