Woman killed in wreck

Husband in serious condition in Seattle after crash on icey road

Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2000

A woman who helped raise many children in Juneau died in a vehicle crash Monday night. Her husband is in serious condition in a Seattle hospital today.

Claudia Valley, 45, a longtime child-care worker, was pronounced dead at the accident scene on Back Loop Road by medics. Police said she had been ejected from a 1990 Toyota pickup that collided with a Capital Transit bus about 6:30 p.m.

The second occupant of the pickup, David Valley, was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital and later flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He has a fractured hip and an abdominal injury, a Harborview spokesman said.

David Valley, 49, is a junior engineer with the Alaska Marine Highway System. He and Claudia Valley were married in June 1999.

The bus driver, a woman, was treated at Bartlett and released, said John Kern, manager of Capital Transit. The only bus passenger declined medical treatment.

The city is arranging counseling for the bus driver today, Kern said.

``Yesterday was such a traumatic situation, we really haven't interviewed the driver,'' he said this morning.

The accident happened under icy conditions on a stretch of Back Loop Road between Windfall Avenue and Goat Hill Road. The bus was headed toward Auke Bay, and the pickup was going in the opposite direction.

``The roads are terrible,'' police Lt. Ron Forneris said Monday night. ``It was very slick, apparently.''

Claudia Valley had worked at child-care centers for many years, most recently at the toddler center at the Juneau Pioneers' Home, coworkers said. The pioneers' home installed a child-care room a year ago so that elderly residents could interact with babies.

``She's devoted her life to taking care of other people's children. She has helped raise thousands of children in Juneau,'' said Natalie Sasser, executive director of Children's Community Center, which runs Bright Futures, the pioneers' home's toddler center.

Bright Futures was closed this morning because parents and staff were upset, Sasser said.

``I've had parents calling all morning, sending their condolences, crying and asking about services,'' said Katrina Laneville, director of Bright Futures. ``We just can't picture it without her.''

Valley understood children intuitively, said Janice Hurley, who worked with her for about two years at the Gold Creek Child Development Center in the Federal Building.

``When a child was having difficulty coping or when they were sad or upset, she had an intuitive way of thinking how she was as a child, or how another child felt,'' Hurley said.

Valley would come up with simple, gentle solutions when children were upset, such as getting them a blanket or modeling clay and talking with them, she said.

Kern, who saw the accident scene last night, said the pickup appeared to have struck the bus at the front, immediately below the bus driver's station, on a ``terrible stretch of road.''

Back Loop Road comes around a curve, then goes down a hill with a curve at the bottom. The collision appeared to happen close to the bottom of the slope, Kern said.

``With the icy conditions that were experienced last night, it was a very hazardous location,'' Kern said this morning.

The bus ended up with its rear wheels on the shoulder of its right side of the road and the front end in a marshy area down a steep ditch, Kern said. The pickup, which was significantly damaged, was on the road's other shoulder, he said.

The road was closed until about 11:45 p.m. while the bus was extricated with a front-end loader, which lifted and pushed it onto the road while a large tow truck pulled from the rear, Kern said.

Capital Transit continued service to the area with other buses, and Kern said future service wouldn't be affected. The damage to the bus hasn't been estimated yet.

The police are still investigating the crash and hadn't released further information by press time today.

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