JBER airman charged with DUI after fatal collision

Michelle Theriault Boots

A 20-year-old Anchorage woman died early Sunday after a drunken driver ran a red light and hit the car she was driving in an East Anchorage intersection, police said.

Citari Townes-Sweatt is the first person to die in an alcohol-related traffic fatality in Anchorage in 14 months, according to Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Dani Myren.

Police said 22-year-old Airman 1st Class Lane Douglas Wyatt of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was driving a Chrysler 300 northbound on Boniface Parkway at a "high rate of speed" just before 4:58 a.m. when he allegedly ran a red light at the intersection with DeBarr Road and "T-boned" a Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Townes-Sweatt, who died at the scene.

"Witnesses observed the light turned yellow, and then the vehicle accelerated and entered the intersection at the red light," Myren said.

Four passengers in the Monte Carlo were injured and taken to local hospitals for treatment, according to court documents. Three passengers in the Chrysler 300 were injured as well.

At the scene, Wyatt admitted to drinking five shots of hard alcohol and three beers at Chilkoot Charlie's before driving, according to court documents.

Patrons of Chilkoot Charlie's are offered free cab rides home, a policy that's advertised on posters throughout the bar, said general manager Doran Powell. Military service members can also get a free ride to the base from a van service supplied by the military, he said.

"We're horrified by this avoidable tragedy," Powell said.

The results of a blood test to determine blood-alcohol content won't be available for a few days, said Myren. Wyatt is a systems apprentice and driver assigned to the 673rd Communications Squadron at JBER, according to a base spokesman.

He has been charged with manslaughter, seven counts of assault and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. He is being held at the Anchorage Jail. Bail has been set at $50,000.

At his arraignment at Anchorage Jail Court on Sunday, Wyatt said he earned about $1,600 a month at his job with the U.S. Air Force and couldn't afford a private lawyer. He was assigned an attorney with the Public Defender Agency.

Wyatt has no prior criminal record in Alaska, according to prosecutors.

The fatal DUI crash is the first in Anchorage since April 30, 2012, when 44-year-old Brenda Kae Davis crashed her SUV into a gate at the Muldoon entrance to JBER. She had a blood-alcohol content of .291 at the time, police said.

"It's tragic on its own," Myren said. "But it's doubly tragic because we've gone 14 months without an alcohol-related fatality."


Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.