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AK Beat: Anchorage police close Seward Highway after fatal crash

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Fatal crash closes Seward Highway (updated): The Anchorage Police Department reported Tuesday evening that the Seward Highway near Potter Marsh was closed while they investigated an accident that left one dead. According to APD, police and medics responded to a collision between a semi truck and a sedan traveling in opposite directions shortly after 7:15 p.m., and one person, a female, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her identity has not been released pending notification of next of kin. Police said that the highway would be shut down in both directions as the investigation continued, but highway access is flowing through Rabbit Creek Road, Old Seward Highway and Potter Valley Road. There was no specific timeline for when the highway might reopen completely, but police said on their Twitter page that "Fatal collisions usually take a few hours to thoroughly investigate." Follow APD on Twitter for possible updates.

Anchorage police make 20 drunken driving arrests over weekend: The Anchorage Police Department made 20 drunken driving arrests over the three-day St. Patrick's Day weekend, only four of which occurred on the holiday itself. Police department spokesperson Jennifer Castro said that is a significant drop from last year, when 18 people were arrested for DUIs on the holiday. Police sent five extra patrol officers out every night of the weekend, using a grant from the Alaska Highway Safety Office. The number of patrol officers was beefed up last year, too. On New Year's Eve, police made nine drunk driving arrests. 

Heli-ski guide dies following avalanche: A 31-year-old heli-ski guide died Monday following an avalanche over the weekend, Alaska State Troopers reported. Aaron Karitis of Bend, Oregon was caught in an avalanche near the kicking Horse Valley west of the Southeast community of Haines on Saturday while leading a tour group down the slope. After Karitis ordered the group to stay atop the ridge while he further checked out conditions for a run, they were watching the guide descend when a large avalanche was triggered mid-slope, engulfing him and carrying him a distance of about 700 feet. Karitis, who was wearing an emergency beacon, was located under four feet of snow within about 15 minutes by a fellow guide who was about to lead a second group down the run, according to Freeskier.com. Alaska State Troopers reported that Karitis was found unresponsive and taken to the Haines clinic. He was then flown to Providence Hospital in Anchorage for further treatment. Upon arrival, his core body temperature was critically low, and oxygen flow to his brain had reportedly been compromised. He passed away Monday, surrounded by friends and family. Read more, at Freeskier.

Amid criticism, the Quest gets a new director: The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race has hired a new executive director, according to a report from the CBC. Laurie Parris, who will be the new head of the 1,000-mile sled dog race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, doesn’t have direct experience with mushing, according to the report. In fact, she’ll be coming to the job form an unlikely previous job -- working as an advisor to a provincial fisheries organization in Cambodia. Parris told the CBC that she’ll be focusing on the business end of race administration. Her appointment comes as previous executive director Marie Boulanger departs the race to move to Alaska, according to the report, and it also comes on the heels of criticism leveled at the race. A number of mushers have vocally complained that the Yukon Quest hasn’t done enough to help the race grow, including securing sponsors and granting media access on the trail. Those mushers have compared the Quest unfavorably with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Sixty-nine mushers started this year’s Iditarod, while just 18 competed in the Yukon Quest.

Wasilla man faces at least 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of daughter: A Wasilla man was convicted Monday of sexually abusing one of his daughters over the course of several years, according to a press release from the office of Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty. The defendant’s name was not released in order protect the identity of the victim, the release said. The abuse began in 2007, when the victim was in third grade and living in Anchorage. It continued to 2011 and included multiple occasions of sexual penetration, according to the release. A parent of one of the victim’s friends reported allegations of sexual abuse to Alaska State Troopers in Palmer, and the defendant was later convicted of one count of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree, and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree. The defendant faces at least 30 years in prison, and will be sentenced in August in Anchorage Superior Court.

Report: Only Wyoming beats Alaska for taxes paid by individuals: If there are taxes to be paid, Alaska is one of the best states to do it from, suggests a new report that ranked states on the level of taxation paid in eight different categories. Alaska ranked second on the list of best places to pay taxes, boasting the lowest state and local income taxes -- there are none -- as well as the lowest auto property tax and food taxes, according to WalletHub, a site that bills itself as a one-stop location for personal financial advice. Only Wyoming beats us. The average annual state and local taxes in Alaska come out to $2,791 -- 60 percent lower than the national average, the study says. (The oil producers, who with the federal government foot most of the costs of state government, may not agree. But the eight categories don’t include severance taxes for extracting nonrenewable resources.) Factoring in the relatively high cost of living in Alaska, the state still ranks fourth in the U.S. in the report. The low taxes are good news for economic mobility, with a family’s chances of moving up or down the ladder increasing in states with lower taxes, according to the report.

'Battle for Seattle' keeps escalating: The battle between Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines for West Coast market share -- especially in Alaska’s Seattle hub -- continues to heat up. Delta is removing code shares from a number of Alaska flights on routes along which the two compete, including those between Seattle and Anchorage, reports Travel Weekly. Alaska has done the same with Delta flights, notes Puget Sound Business Journal. Alaska Airlines is “a good company; my sense is that it will be nicely profitable for the foreseeable future,” said Michael Linenburg, a Deutsche Bank analyst, who recently downgraded Alaska’s stock, according to Travel Weekly. “But Linenberg also said he believes ‘it’s only a matter of time before some of the smaller carriers trying to play in the same sandbox as the bigger carriers’ have to become more closely aligned with other airlines or face absorption.” For travelers from Alaska on Alaska Airlines flights one potential silver lining is that the company is increasing its codeshares with American Airlines instead -- perhaps to help stave of that “absorption.” And it that leaves you cold, there’s always the airline’s new wines, custom blended by a Walla Walla, Wash. winery “to be enjoyed at high altitudes, where travelers' sense of smell and taste bud sensitivity is known to change."

In restructuring, Wood-Tikchik to lose flying ranger: Wood-Tikchik State Park will lose a ranger as part of a restructuring plan that places it administratively under Chugach State Park, reports KDLG, Dillingham’s public radio station. According to KDLG, the consolidation of the state’s two largest state parks under a single superintendent comes as the parks system tries to boost staffing at more heavily-used areas while budget’s remain static. Wood-Tikchik, centered around a series of interconnected lakes north of Dillingham and Aleknagik, currently has two rangers, but will see that number drop to one after this summer, according to the report. That second ranger, Alison Eskelin “is one of the parks division's few trained pilots, and the plane the park acquired last year will move with her,” KDLG reports.

Yukon premier lobbies Washington for Alaska Highway funds: According to the premier of the Yukon Territories, Darrell Pasloski, the U.S. has paid for little less than 25 percent of the costs of the Alaska Highway, but U.S traffic accounts for 85 percent of its total traffic, says a report from the CBC. Pasloski was in Washington last week trying to convince U.S. lawmakers to continue funding the highway, which links Alaska to the contiguous 48 states through Yukon and British Columbia. Under an agreement with Canada, the U.S. had providing some road funding since 1977, but that funding dried up in 2012. Pasloski is hoping that his efforts -- with the support of groups like the Teamsters’ Union and the American Truckers Association -- will get those funds flowing from Washington again.