Separate Seward Highway wrecks kill siblings

Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A man who died in a fatal wreck on Seward Highway Thursday was the brother of a woman killed in a car accident on the same highway last month.

Michael VanRoten, 30, died after he was ejected from his pickup truck near the intersection of Fireweed Lane and the Seward Highway after he collided with another car.

His sister, Kimberly VanRoten, was killed July 4 on Seward Highway near Portage when a driver trying to pass two cars hit her car head-on. A third sibling, 28-year-old Gary VanRoten was injured in the head-on collision that killed Kimberly VanRoten.

"This is just very hard to fathom right now," their mother, Linda Harris, told The Anchorage Daily News in a telephone interview from Florida.

The crash follows a string of deaths this summer along Seward Highway south of Anchorage. Most of the accidents happened outside of town, along the winding, scenic stretch between Potter Marsh and Turnagain Pass, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The rash of traffic accidents prompted a community meeting earlier this month to talk about ways to make the roadway safer.

Girdwood Fire Chief William Chadwick had called the meeting to discuss driving behavior and fatal accidents along the scenic byway. He would like to see a four-lane, divided highway all the way from Anchorage to Seward.

Harris said her son, Michael, was a car salesman and may have just gotten off the job since the crash happened near his work.

He was driving a pickup truck at about 9:15 p.m. Thursday when he stopped at a red light with another car at the intersection of Fireweed Lane and Seward Highway, police said.

When the light turned green, both vehicles accelerated northbound on the highway "at a high rate of speed," police said.

Police said the other vehicle lost control and hit the passenger side of VanRoten's pickup. VanRoten was ejected from the truck and was pronounced dead at the scene.

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