Trooper: driver admitted texting at time of Kenai accident

zhollander@adn.comOctober 9, 2013 

A 29-year-old Soldotna woman accused of texting behind the wheel before injuring a Kenai Peninsula highway worker was expected to be released to her mother's custody on Wednesday.

Along with assault and texting while driving, Alaska State Troopers also charged Kara Kellerby with driving under the influence at the time of the accident, which was reported just before 3 a.m. Sunday.

Kellerby said she was reading a text message and getting ready to respond at the time of the accident, according to a sworn affidavit filed in Kenai District Court by troopers Sgt. Eugene Fowler.

A Kenai District Court judge on Wednesday morning set Kellerby's bail at a $1,000 cash performance bond and 24-hour monitoring by her mother except when she's at work at an assisted living center. The judge also barred Kellerby from driving and ordered her to stay away from alcohol altogether. She was scheduled to be discharged from Wildwood Pretrial Facility on Wednesday.

Early Sunday, Kellerby crashed into a parked construction trailer behind an occupied pickup near Mile 2 of the Kenai Spur Highway, troopers said. A flashing arrow sign on the trailer directed drivers into the other lane.

Sitting in the Ford F-450 pickup in front of the trailer was Angela O'Brien, a worker on the highway project. Troopers say Kellerby smashed into the trailer, destroying the sign and pushing it into the truck. Kellerby's 2006 Jeep Commander sustained front-end damage.

O'Brien suffered minor injuries. She was treated and released Sunday at Central Peninsula Hospital.

At the scene, Kellerby initially told Fowler "she had been on the phone and didn't see the sign to change lanes," he wrote in the affidavit. The sergeant smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Kellerby, according to the charging document. He also noted her bloodshot eyes, slurred words and swaying during field sobriety tests that she failed, the affidavit states.

"Kellerby stated she had been on her phone reading a text message at the time of the crash and was going to respond to the text message," Fowler wrote in his affidavit.

She told the trooper she'd had just a few drinks at a Kenai bar, Fowler said.

Kellerby's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, according to a breath test taken at 4:14 a.m., the affidavit states.

Kellerby faces charges of third-degree assault, texting while driving and driving under the influence. Troopers seized her cell phone.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.

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