Wildland firefighters, JBER doctor aid crash victims

Devin Kelly

A passing crew of wildland firefighters and a U.S. Air Force physician came to the aid of two men who were seriously injured in a rollover crash on the Glenn Highway near Sheep Mountain on Tuesday, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Ryan Palmer, 21, of Wasilla was driving a 1999 Subaru Legacy southbound near Mile 116 of the highway when the car went down an embankment, rolled several times and came to rest after hitting a tree, troopers said.

Both Palmer and his passenger, Michael Sunderland, 19, of Palmer, were ejected from the vehicle and seriously injured, troopers said.

About 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, someone called troopers to report the crash, said Megan Peters, trooper spokeswoman. Because of the remoteness of the crash site, about 70 miles southwest of Glennallen, troopers and paramedics were slow to respond.

But passing wildland firefighters from the Chena Interagency Hotshot Crew and their two medics helped care for the men and also extinguished a fire caused by the crash, Peters said. In addition to the firefighters, an Air Force physician from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson also stopped to provide care.

"I don't think you can get much luckier than having actual medics pass by," Peters said.

A trooper based in Glennallen arrived about an hour later. Two LifeMed helicopters also responded and flew the men to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

Sunderland was listed in serious condition Wednesday morning, and Palmer was listed in fair condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing, Peters said, but neither man appeared to have been wearing a seat belt. Court records show Palmer has been cited and fined at least four times for not wearing a seat belt, with a fifth citation pending in court.

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.