Hoonah resident Sarah Lampe often listens to reports of fires, false alarms and accidents on her police scanner. What she heard Sunday sent her to the scene of a serious motor-vehicle accident less than a block from her home where her nephew was lying on the ground, unconscious and dying.
"I was at home cleaning up when I heard the sirens," Lampe said today. "I went down to see what happened. I was standing there and no one knew what had happened.
"Then I heard my nephew's name. I just automatically ran over to be with him. I didn't do anything though. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't tell you what was going through my mind."
Gary Paul Smith, 39, was struck by a truck around 6 p.m. Sunday while walking on Garteeni Highway near the Hoonah Post Office. He was taken to the Hoonah Medical Center where he died from his injuries. Hoonah police said Smith's body will be sent to the state crime lab in Anchorage for an autopsy.
Lt. William Mills of the Hoonah Police Department said today police are unsure whether Smith was crossing the street or walking along the side of the street when he was struck.
The driver, Gerard K. White, 43, of Hoonah, was given a breathalyzer test shortly after the accident and arrested. Mills declined to give the man's blood-alcohol level. White was lodged at the Hoonah City Jail on Sunday night and is being held on $50,000 bail.
Preliminary charges against White includes a count of felony criminally negligent homicide, but could change before his arraignment in Hoonah District Court later today.
"We can't release the results of the breath test at this time because we are still investigating," said Mills said. "Drunken driving is part of a criminally negligent homicide charge."
Smith was a lifetime resident of Hoonah, his mother Diane Carrier said. Carrier is a Juneau resident, but had the chance to see her son 10 days ago on Thanksgiving.
"He was such a gentle man," said Carrier. "He took after his grandfather that way and he (Smith) just loved his grandkids. They nicknamed him 'Grampa' around Hoonah because that's what his granddaughters called him.
"His daughter and his grandkids are taking this very hard. ... Last night was a rough one for me. ... He just turned 39 on Saturday and by Sunday he's gone? You just never know what's going to happen to you when you wake up."
Melanie Plenda can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.