Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Alaskan son of a decorated World War II veteran has reunited a flag with the family of a long-dead Japanese soldier who carried the flag into vicious combat on Iwo Jima. Warren Keogh personally delivered the hand-lettered silk “good luck” flag to the family of soldier Matsukuma Torao last month on the Japanese island of Kyushu. It was the first time Matsukuma’s family touched the fabric of that flag since he brought it to the embattled South Pacific Island of Iwo Jima more than 70 years ago. The occasion marked the culmination of a decadeslong process that started when Keogh’s father, U.S. Army Sgt. James W. Keogh, brought home two captured Japanese flags bearing hand-written messages to Japanese soldiers. Jim Keogh earned a Bronze Star in 1945 for his trips into the bunker...Zaz Hollander
The post office in Fort Yukon, a town of about 600 people on the Yukon River about 145 air miles northeast of Fairbanks, reopened this week after a five-day closure amid complaints about unpredictable hours and turnover. Fort Yukon, U.S. Rep. Don Young’s adopted hometown, relies on the post office for everything from medications to food to money. And like many other rural towns in Alaska, it suffers from spotty mail service. The post office was closed the week of April 10, according to Dawn Peppinger, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. Otherwise, the office has had what Peppinger called “intermittent service.” The agency flew in relief from Eagle for three weeks and rotated other workers. The office’s postmaster had already resigned in mid-March after working in Fort Yukon for...Zaz Hollander
PALMER -- The small plane that crashed near Chugiak Wednesday morning, killing four people -- including the former National Transportation Safety Board investigator at the controls -- was headed for a nearby survey project in the area of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Pilot George Kobelnyk, 64; co-pilot Christian Bohrer, 20; and surveyors Kyle Braun, 27, and Sarah Glaves, 36, died in the crash of Kobelnyk’s Cessna 172P around 9 a.m., shortly after taking off from the Birchwood Airport. Braun and Glaves both worked for TerraSond, a ground and ocean surveyor headquartered in an industrial area on the south side of Palmer. The firm has 55 employees and offices in Seattle, Texas and Mexico. “It’s just a complete shock. Our company is stunned by all of this,” Scott Schillinger, TerraSond’s...Zaz Hollander
The pilot of a small plane that crashed near Chugiak Wednesday morning, killing all four people onboard, was a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator with extensive aviation experience in Alaska. Anchorage Fire Department Chief Dennis LeBlanc said the crash, off Beach Lake Road, was reported shortly after 9 a.m. “An aircraft was found fully engulfed in flames,” LeBlanc said. “There are four fatalities.” Anchorage police identified the victims of the crash Wednesday afternoon as pilot George Kobelnyk, 64, and co-pilot Christian Bohrer, 20. The two passengers were Sarah Glaves, 36, and Kyle Braun, 27. The aircraft was registered to Kobelnyk, based on a tail number provided by National Transportation Safety Board investigator Shaun Williams. Kobelnyk had worked for both the...Tegan Hanlon,Zaz Hollander,Chris Klint
SETTLERS BAY -- Mary Beall was the only person cited for feeding a 2-year-old moose in this woodsy neighborhood built up around a golf course southwest of Wasilla. But family members say she wasn’t the only person feeding it. The calf was killed in Beall’s yard on Easter Sunday. Two of her sons shot the moose at close range with pistols in what they described as an effort to protect a nearby group of people that included three toddlers. His mother hand-fed the moose some carrots in January, shot a video and put the video on Facebook, 26-year-old James Beall said at the family’s home Monday morning. Beall said he told his mother to stop feeding the moose, which is illegal. He told her to take down the video. That was the only time his mother fed the moose, said Beall, a U.S. Army veteran...Zaz Hollander
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HOUSTON -- This scrappy community of 2,000 that straddles 22 square miles along the Parks Highway has long been the only place in Southcentral Alaska where buying fireworks is legal. Now Houston is welcoming the state’s nascent marijuana industry in hopes of drumming up some much-needed revenue for...
Zaz Hollander
HOUSTON -- This scrappy town of 2,000 that straddles 22 square miles along the Parks Highway has long been the only place in Southcentral Alaska where buying fireworks is legal. Now Houston is welcoming the state’s nascent marijuana industry in hopes of drumming up some much-needed revenue for a city struggling to stay solvent. If a voter-initiative ban goes through this fall, Houston could become the only place in the Ireland-sized Matanuska-Susitna Borough where commercial marijuana operations are legal. A town that's too cash-poor to field a police department is the only one to offer pot entrepreneurs any kind of financial certainty amid the bans in place, or contemplated, throughout the rest of the Mat-Su borough. Houston city officials say they’re expecting sharp reductions in state...Zaz Hollander
The Alaska Republican Party contends that state Rep. Jim Colver is breaking party lines and working to undermine his own majority in the Alaska House. Party leaders in his district issued a letter of reprimand Monday accusing the Mat-Su Republican of collaborating with House Democrats to build a bipartisan majority in the Legislature next year. Colver, R-Palmer, issued a flat denial of any coalition-building on Tuesday by phone from the Hatcher Pass area, where he was making a quick trip home for his daughter’s 16th birthday. He said the attack from the party’s more conservative faction is motivated by his upcoming re-election bid against one of their own: Sutton’s George Rauscher, a remodeling contractor and district party official. “I don’t think the Republican Party wants to have...Zaz Hollander,Nathaniel Herz
The first 100 days of 2016 in Anchorage have been the warmest on record, according to the National Weather Service. Most communities in Alaska also experienced above-normal temperatures almost every day between Jan. 1 and April 9, according to Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the Weather Service’s Anchorage region. Cordova measured above-normal temperatures 98 days out of the first 100 of 2016, Eagle 93 and Bettles 91. “Statewide, it’s been extremely mild since Christmastime,” Thoman said. “Every place is extremely warm.” ICYMI: Alaska's first 100 days of 2016 (Jan 1 to Apr 9) have been on the toasty side. #akwx @NWSAlaska — Brian Brettschneider (@Climatologist49) April 11, 2016 Anchorage’s new record came with a 31.1-degree average...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- Kellsie Green died in January, six days after she entered the Anchorage jail -- 24 years old, weighing only about 80 pounds and about to embark on the brutal process of detoxing from a 4-gram-a-day heroin habit. Now Green’s father is claiming in a civil wrongful death lawsuit filed late last month against the Alaska Department of Corrections that the brief jail sentence he’d hoped would save her life instead led to her death. John Green said his daughter’s cellmates at the Anchorage jail told him requests to help Kellsie went mostly ignored even as her condition worsened to the point she could no longer stand, vomited blood and soiled herself. “The lack of compassion for somebody that’s going through this -- how can that be?” the Wasilla resident said during a recent interview...Zaz Hollander