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Missing Palmer man found in trees along Glenn a day after car crashed

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: September 22
  • Published September 22

Authorities say a Palmer man reported missing Sunday crashed his car along the Glenn Highway that day but remained trapped out of view for more than 24 hours before he was rescued Monday afternoon.

The Palmer Police Department issued a missing persons poster for Gary Bishop. He was last seen Sept. 17, 2017.

Gary Bishop was found alive Monday evening but remained hospitalized Friday at Providence Alaska Medical Center in stable condition. He had been listed in critical condition a day earlier.

Bishop's wife, Janis, wasn't ready to talk about what happened, a family friend said Thursday.

Janis Bishop reported her husband missing late Sunday morning after he ate breakfast with a buddy at the popular restaurant at Valley Hotel in downtown Palmer and left around 11 a.m. in his purple 1994 Crown Victoria.

"Nobody could find him after that," said Palmer police Chief Lance Ketterling.

The family started a search and plastered the area with flyers and social media with missing poster alerts.

But as police officers — and scores of friends and family — started to comb the Palmer area for the missing man, a driver called 911 after he passed a man later identified as Bishop as both drove north on the Old Glenn Highway near the Knik River, Anchorage police say.

The driver called police just before 12:30 p.m. Sunday to report he thought he saw the car he'd just passed "go into the treeline" along the Glenn just north of the Old Glenn Highway, according to Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Renee Oistad.

The driver told dispatchers he saw the vehicle veer while attempting to enter the Glenn at which point the "driver appeared to miss the shoulder and went into the treeline," Oistad said, reading from a report. The caller said he couldn't see any car from the road.

The Knik River bridge marks the boundary between Anchorage police and Alaska State Troopers jurisdiction along the highway.

The accident apparently occurred south of the bridge, according to responders.

Anchorage dispatchers, thinking the area was outside their jurisdiction, contacted the troopers.

A trooper drove to an area at Mile 29 of the Glenn but didn't find a crash site or a vehicle off the road, troopers spokesman Tim Despain said in an email. Despain couldn't answer additional questions about the extent of the search the trooper made for the car.

The next day, the same driver who called 911 on Sunday about the mysterious accident saw the missing-person post on Facebook, according to a narrative Janis Bishop posted on Facebook summarizing what happened.

"This same man saw the Facebook post on Monday at work," Janis Bishop wrote. "On his way home from work around 5pm, he stopped, exited his car and looked for the accident. He found Gary's car several feet below the highway in a ravine. He then called the Anchorage Police Department and reported the accident."

Police got the call at 5:11 p.m. Monday, according to Oistad. The man said he'd gone back "and they could still see the vehicle in the treeline so they called to do a follow-up."

Dispatchers called the troopers but were told the area wasn't within the troopers' jurisdiction, so Anchorage police responded, she said.

Two Anchorage police officers and a crew from the Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company found the Crown Victoria in the trees, crumpled against a tree with "extensive front end and passenger side damage," Oistad said.

Bishop was inside, breathing but at first unconscious, she said. He eventually was able to give an officer his name.

The Chugiak responders extricated him from the vehicle and loaded Bishop into an ambulance for the trip south to Providence.

"Our sincerest gratitude is extended to the gentleman from the Valley who cared enough to take that extra moment of his life to save another life," Janis Bishop wrote.

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