Permit banned travel under overpass struck by heavy equipment in deadly Minnesota Drive collision

The company hauling heavy equipment that killed a nearby driver after striking a Minnesota Drive overpass Tuesday was operating under a state permit that banned travel under any structure lower than 15 feet.

The Hillcrest Drive bridge the machinery hit was 14 feet, 3 inches high, state officials say.

The equipment involved in the collision was a Caterpillar 420F backhoe with an excavator arm, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. The Municipality of Anchorage owns the equipment. Vulcan Towing was transporting it.

“The excavator arm is what struck the bridge and it was torn off by the impact,” said Justin Shelby, administrative operations manager for DOT. “It went through the cab of the backhoe before striking a nearby SUV.”

The Anchorage Police Department identified the driver killed when the excavator arm hit his Jeep as 43-year-old Jason Collins. A driver and passenger in the Vulcan truck were not hurt, police said.

Collins, who went by Jay, lived near Wasilla and worked as a commercial pilot, according to Alexander Clark, a longtime friend and flight instructor. On Tuesday, Collins was on his way to have lunch with his “sweetheart” after finishing a new flight physical, said Clark, who expressed frustration at what news footage showed Tuesday: The backhoe’s arm punctured Collins’ windshield, killing him.

“This was obviously preventable,” Clark said in a message Friday. “I’m amazed that no other cars were hit by debris.”


A Vulcan representative said the company was “not releasing any information at this time” and told a reporter to send questions via email. The company later referred all questions to attorney Kevin Fitzgerald, who did not immediately return a call for comment.

Hans Rodvik, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bronson, initially referred a request for information to the police department and did not respond to additional questions about the municipal towing contract. A police spokeswoman said the department would not release information about the incident until a report was complete, most likely next week.

No criminal charges had been filed as of Friday afternoon, APD spokeswoman Sunny Guerin said.

The state’s commercial vehicle compliance division is reviewing any potential penalties with the state Attorney General’s office, Shelby said.

The backhoe’s arm damaged two steel girders beneath the overpass, which Shelby described as lower than most state bridges in town. A bridge inspection team is reviewing the damage and the history of repairs to the overpass, which has been struck before, before making final decision about repairs, he said.

The state closed part of the sidewalk and shoulder over the damaged area but travel over the bridge itself is safe, Shelby said.

The permit Vulcan was operating under is an annual “Extended Period Oversize and Overweight Permit” that applies through December. It applies to loads up to 15 feet in height.


“The conditions of the permit are that they do not transport under 15 feet,” Shelby said Friday. “That bridge, both northbound and southbound, is posted at 14 feet, 3 inches. We did confirm that is an accurate height.”

The state permit provided the first specifics about the incident after several days with minimal public information. Initial reports said only that the Jeep “struck part of the equipment.”

Clark took to social media this week to memorialize his friend. In a Facebook post, he said Collins moved to Alaska with the U.S. Coast Guard and recently retired from the Alaska Air National Guard. He started flying lessons with Clark in Homer in 2005. He had lived in Homer and Anchor Point, worked for Ravn Air and was working as a cargo pilot when he died.

“He helped me build parts of my house and our guest cabin. And he did all the wiring. Not to mention helping me turn wrenches on my planes,” Clark wrote.

“We had just been talking about his plans for this summer a couple days ago. Now all his plans are gone.”

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at