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Police investigation into lake death continuing

Posted: July 1, 2012 - 12:10am

Juneau police are still trying to piece together a picture of what happened last Saturday at Auke Lake when an inner tube being towed by a jet ski was struck by another jet ski, resulting in the death of a 16-year-old girl.

Still in the early stages of their investigation, Juneau Police Department Chief Greg Browning said the investigation into Savannah Cayce’s death will likely take several more weeks to complete.

“There’s still a number of witnesses to interview,” Browning said during a press conference with City Manager Kim Kiefer at Juneau Assembly Chambers Friday afternoon. “As the city manager indicated, we’re hoping other people come forward, and that takes time. There’s still some more forensic work to be conducted, and as far as the time line goes, I hate to really place that to make a projection, but it’s still some weeks off.”

The chief also noted it was too early to tell if charges will be filed in the case. The District Attorney’s Office will make that decision once the police investigation is complete.

“It’s too early right now to make any kind of connection as to whether that will happen or not,” Browning said.

Cayce, who was a junior at Juneau Douglas High School, and another 16-year-old girl were lying on an inner tube being towed by a jet ski when it collided with the starboard side of another jet ski around 4:40 p.m. Saturday.

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 with a severe head injury. She died Monday morning.

Browning said police are investigation whether anyone was being reckless on the water.

The driver of the jet ski towing the inner tube was identified as a 20-year-old Juneau man, and the driver of the jet ski that was struck by the inner tube was identified as a 19-year-old Juneau man, according to an earlier statement from JPD. Both their names are being withheld.

The speeds of the jet skis at the time of the crash is still being investigated, but Browning did note that the jet ski that collided with the inner tube was going at a slow rate of speed at the time.

Browning declined to say whether the accident happened in the marked motorized part of the lake, or the designated non-motorized portion. “That’s another thing we’re trying to determine for absolute certainty, and I would hate to make a statement about that at this time,” he said.

Police determined that alcohol was not a factor in the crash, Browning said. Because the two drivers of the jet skis were not suspected of drinking, they were not asked to provide a breath sample to determine their alcohol level content, Browning said.

“There was no indication of alcohol on the part of anybody involved,” he said.

Based on the preliminary investigation, Browning said it wasn’t yet possible to determine whether the accident was preventable.

“I really don’t want to speculate,” he said.

The JPD is being assisted in their investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers. Both the jet skis, along with the tube and tow rope, are in police custody.

State statute requires that police conduct investigations into unattended deaths — meaning when doctors aren’t present — to ensure no laws were violated.

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

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