Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2001

Search for pilot, instructor, suspended

JUNEAU - Alaska State Troopers have suspended a "large-scale, organized effort" to recover the bodies of Steve Zeckser and Edgar "Bear" Burch.

Zeckser, 51, a Forest Service employee and pilot, and Burch, 63, a Vietnam veteran pilot and certified flight instructor, were reported missing Dec. 27 when they did not return from a flight to Young Bay, 12 miles southwest of downtown Juneau. The U.S. Coast Guard, the Forest Service and volunteers mounted a search that continued for more than a week. Members of SEAS, a new dive unit, contributed five days of their time to the search.

"Unless we get more (airplane) parts floating up or other evidence, we have canceled the search," said trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Landlord accused of threatening tenant

JUNEAU - Juneau Police arrested landlord Gary Wilkins on Monday for alleged assault against his tenant, a man, 35.

Police responded to an assault complaint about 9 a.m. Monday at 13780 Glacier Highway. The tenant said his landlord pointed a handgun at him and threatened to kill him, police said. The tenant alleged the landlord had a rifle in his other hand, said Capt. Tom Porter. Officers made contact with Wilkins, who denied using weapons. He said he asked his tenant to leave the property Sunday evening.

However, the following morning the landlord saw the tenant in the yard, police said. Wilkins ran outside, confronted the man and ordered him to leave the property, police said. After police consulted with the district attorney's office, they arrested Wilkins for third-degree assault. Porter said the maximum sentence for third-degree assault is five years in jail.

Police did not release the name of the tenant and did not know why he had been asked to leave the property. Wilkins remains in custody at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Four-wheeler accident victim improving

JUNEAU - The condition of a Juneau man injured in an all-terrain vehicle rollover near Lemon Creek early Friday has improved.

Jordan Irwin, 20, the driver of the ATV, suffered head and chest injuries when he was pinned under the vehicle. He was medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Irwin's condition was critical last week but has now improved to "satisfactory with a possible head injury," Harborview spokesman Kristin Foley said this morning.

Forest Service plowing plan raises eyebrows

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly has directed City Manager Dave Palmer to talk to U.S. Forest Service officials about that agency's decision not to maintain a Juneau road under its jurisdiction.

Most of the 1.2-mile portion of Glacier Highway at the Auke Village Recreation Area will not be plowed during the winter, the U.S. Forest Service decided in December.

The Glacier Highway easement was turned over to the Forest Service after a new bypass was constructed connecting Auke Bay and Lena Loop Road. Previously, drivers passed through national forest lands directly adjacent to the Auke Rec area.

After the bypass was completed, the state passed on the responsibility.

"One of the problems is if you don't plow right away when it snows, it's extremely difficult to get the road open later," said Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon.

MacKinnon said he was "offended" the Forest Service had abrogated its responsibility.

"If the Forest Service isn't going to step up to the plate, the city should," he said.

Costs to the city would be only "a small increment," he said, and would provide ease of access to residents and to users of the recreation area.

"More important, it would provide better emergency vehicle access, for only a few thousand dollars' cost to the city," he said.

Signs have been posted to alert drivers to the lack of winter maintenance.

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