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ANCHORAGE - A married couple died Saturday afternoon in a head-on collision near Bertha Creek on the Seward Highway after an oncoming driver reaching for a soda crossed into their lane, Alaska State Troopers said.
Robert Weiser, 60, was driving a blue 2000 Jeep Cherokee south at about 1:30 p.m. near Mile 64.5 on the highway when he saw a 2002 white Ford pickup driven by Erwin James Petterson Jr. swerve into his lane, troopers said.
Weiser, with his wife, Donna Weiser, 56, in the passenger seat, swerved to the right to avoid Petterson's pickup.
Troopers said Petterson, 28, of Kenai, had taken his eyes off the road to grab a soda. A passenger in the truck was looking down in the floorboard and digging through items, troopers said.
Petterson apparently looked up, saw he was veering into the other lane and swerved left, troopers said. The two vehicles hit head-on and the Jeep caught fire.
James Olson, 34, a wrecker driver from Kenai, stopped and pulled Donna Weiser from the burning Jeep but she was already dead, troopers said. Robert Weiser was also believed to be dead, they said.
Petterson and his passenger were transported by helicopter to Providence Alaska Medical Center. The passenger was treated and released. Petterson was being treated for a broken ankle and broken ribs.Everyone involved was wearing a seat belt and alcohol was not a factor, troopers said.