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Driver killed in early morning crash; police suspect alcohol

A 34-year-old man was killed early Saturday morning when he crashed the pickup truck he was driving in what Anchorage police say appears to be the city's fifth alcohol-related traffic death of the year.

Police said Stephen C. Kenny was driving about 70 mph on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue when he lost control of his truck on a corner near Tudor Road. The speed limit on the curve is 30 mph, according to police.

The vehicle went over an embankment and smashed through a wooden fence. Kenny was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

A passenger in the truck, who was uninjured, told the police that the two had been drinking at a party in South Anchorage.

Early analysis of the crash suggested that part of the wooden fence may have penetrated the truck and hit the driver, according to investigator Steven Buchta.

Police suspect the wreck to be the fifth alcohol-related traffic death of the year, and the third in the last two weeks. Two teenage girls were walking on a South Anchorage sidewalk when they were struck and killed by a drunken driver, Stacey Allen Graham, earlier this month, police said.

Police Chief Mark Mew learned of the crash at about 3 a.m. as he visited two 4th Avenue bars that were testing the first day of a revamped "safety hour" law. The law, recently rewritten by the city Assembly, allows eligible bars to remain open an hour after the normal weekend closing time of 3 a.m. as long as all customers stop drinking. The goal is to allow patrons an extra hour to sober up or wait inside for a cab.

Mew stood in the Pioneer Bar, cellphone to his ear, as a deputy chief told him the details of the latest crash.

"Frustrated is an understatement at this point in time," Mew said in an interview. "We're putting a ton of work into this. You know all the things we've announced just in the last few days. All the new initiatives that are going in effect as we speak. And we've got another (death)."

Friday night marked the first test of a new police department effort to curb drunken driving by deploying civilian patrols to watch for DUI offenders.

Police had arrested 11 people on drunken-driving charges by 5 a.m., Mew later wrote in an email. "One caught by volunteers, 10 by patrol."

Reporter Nathaniel Herz contributed to this story.


By KYLE HOPKINS
Anchorage Daily News