ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers searched a Seward Highway river after a man charged with drunk driving said he drove into water but could not remember if he'd been accompanied by passengers.
Troopers on Sunday scoured Sixmile Creek near Hope after responding to a call of a a drunken, sopping-wet man wandering along the highway near Summit Lake.
In the end, investigators determined that Paul Fisher, 19, of Anchorage was traveling alone.
"Soaking wet and double drunk; it's a bad combination," trooper Sgt. Mark Ridling said.
The incident began about 5:30 a.m. Sunday when someone called troopers from an emergency call box in the Summit Lake Lodge parking lot, about 10 miles south of Sixmile Creek. The caller reported that "a wet and disoriented male was standing in that area and appeared to be confused, didn't know what was going on," Ridling said.
Fisher told a trooper he had been heading north on the Seward Highway when he drove into water. As to what water, where he'd been before or if anyone had been with him, he could not say, Ridling said.
"Now, shortly after we got the first call, we got another call reporting they could see a partially submerged vehicle in Sixmile Creek near Mile 59 of the Seward Highway, so the trooper puts two and two together and they go back to the area."
The roof of Fisher's 1990 Acura was spotted in swift current about 50 feet downstream from where it entered.
Water runs fast in Sixmile Creek this time of year, Ridling said. If anyone had been in the car, they either would have been stuck inside or washed downstream.
A trooper helicopter flew the creek's length several times, searching for victims.
Meanwhile, troopers questioning Fisher figured out he'd been at a party at a gravel pit farther south.
"The officers went to wherever this gathering was and were able to account for everybody who had been with this fellow," Ridling said. But accounting for all the partygoers did not happen until about 3 p.m. Sunday, he said.
Fisher was charged with driving while intoxicated and for being a minor consuming alcohol.
As for the car, crews rigged it to a towline and hauled it out. Water pressure popped the hood and wrapped it around the windshield like tinfoil.
Fisher was not injured, Ridling said.
"He's quite fortunate he's OK," Ridling said. "He could have drowned or had some real serious problems with hypothermia."