3 teens, police officer die in Anchorage crash

Alcohol believed to have been involved in head-on collision

Posted: Monday, July 09, 2001

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage police officer and three teen-agers were killed today in a head-on collision after a driver suspected of being drunk refused to stop for police.

Police identified the officer as Justin T. Wollam, 28. He died at the scene on the Glenn Highway.

Also killed was a 19-year-old man who drove a Chevy Blazer that collided with the officer's patrol car, and two female teen-age passengers. Police were not releasing names of the youths until relatives were notified.

A 15-year-old girl ejected from the Blazer during the crash was in critical condition with a skull fracture at Alaska Regional Hospital.

Police also were questioning a boy and a girl who ran from the Blazer before the crash.

A police officer spotted the Blazer with seven people inside driving erratically in East Anchorage at 3:23 a.m. and suspected the driver might be drunk. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle, but it sped off.

A few minutes later, the Blazer was spotted driving north in the southbound lanes of another city street. Police stopped northbound traffic to prevent an accident.

Police Chief Walt Monegan said officers three or four times laid down spike strips that puncture tires to try to stop the vehicle but the driver drove around them and continued.

Three passengers fled the Blazer near Arctic Boulevard and Garnet Street. Police apprehended two of the teens.

The collision occurred on the Glenn Highway about a half hour after the Blazer was first spotted.

The Blazer headed north at an estimated 80-85 mph, crossed the median and began driving against traffic in the southbound lane.

Wollam was headed south to position himself to set up another spike strip. Police believe a third vehicle obstructed his view of the oncoming vehicle, Monegan said.

The officer and the driver of the Blazer tried to take evasive action but collided head-on.

"This was a tragedy not only for the police department but for the families," Monegan said.

Monegan said the police department's pursuit policy is being reviewed. It allows police to pursue fleeing vehicles if the public is in danger. Monegan said the decision by officers whether to pursue is often a difficult one.

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