Pickup runs down pair on Anchorage sidewalk

Woman in critical condition; police say no charges yet filed.

Anchorage Daily NewsJanuary 3, 2012 

A pickup truck early on New Year's Day plowed into a young couple walking to their home downtown, and the driver tried to get away but couldn't because his truck was stuck in snow, Anchorage police said.

Ashley Marie Brotherton was critically injured in the collision, police said Sunday. She's a first-year special education teacher at Denali Montessori Elementary School downtown.

The driver is 21, police spokeswoman Marlene Lammers said. Police aren't releasing his name because they say the collision still is being investigated and charges may be filed. Alcohol may be a factor and police are awaiting results of toxicology tests.

The incident happened around 1:15 a.m.

Brotherton and her longtime boyfriend, Clayton Tyler Wilbanks, both 24, were walking north on the sidewalk on the west side of I Street, which is northbound one-way, police said. The truck hit them from behind near the intersection of West 11th Avenue and I Street, police said. That's close to the Anchorage Pioneers' Home.

They live farther north downtown, according to voter registration records.

The couple had been dropped off by a friend at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub in Spenard for a New Year's Eve concert by the reggae-rock group Pepper. When the concert ended, they considered taking a cab but thought why not walk, Wilbanks said from Providence Alaska Medical Center, where he is being treated for head and internal injuries.

"We don't remember any of it happening. At least I don't. I haven't talked to my girlfriend yet. She's still not awake," he said Sunday evening.

He woke up in Providence and has been piecing together what happened. Brotherton was rushed to Alaska Regional Hospital.

Witnesses told police the red Dodge pickup truck was driving recklessly just before the collision. The truck spun around and ended up stuck in a snowbank. Witnesses said the driver tried to leave but couldn't, police said. Two men pulled the driver from the vehicle and held him on the ground until police arrived, according to police.

Brotherton suffered a traumatic head injury and may have broken bones, police said. She is listed in critical condition, police said.

Wilbanks is listed in fair condition. He is expected to fully recover, said school district spokeswoman Heidi Embley. Wilbanks said in the phone interview that he had to get staples in his head and that his insides are banged up.

"Nothing like what Ashley is going through," he said.

While both police and school district spokeswomen stressed that her condition is critical, tests are giving positive signs, Wilbanks said.

She's strong and "she's going to do awesome," he said.

Ruth Dene, Denali Montessori principal, and other teachers and friends were with Brotherton all day Sunday at Alaska Regional, Embley said.

Brotherton started at the Anchorage school in the fall and is a new teacher. She and Wilbanks were high school sweethearts in Littleton, Colo., he said. They moved to Anchorage from Colorado for her job and the adventure of it, Wilbanks said. He's working for now at a rental car business.

They don't have family here but both of their mothers are flying into Anchorage to be with them, Wilbanks said.

"That's always extra sad when someone is doing something right and then someone doing the wrong thing causes serious injury," Embley said. It appears the couple was "just enjoying the New Year."

The major collision investigative unit is handling the case. Police ask any witnesses to contact investigator Rick Steiding at 786-2669.

School resumes Tuesday in Anchorage. The district will have counselors on hand to help students and staff deal with the situation.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

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