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Crime & Courts

Bus driver in fatal 2015 Seward Highway crash charged with criminally negligent homicide

An accident involving several vehicles, including a tour bus, killed one person and injured several others on July 31, 2015, on Seward Highway near Portage. (Shelby Lum / ADN archive)

The bus driver in a 2015 collision on the Seward Highway that killed one person and injured several others has been indicted by an Anchorage grand jury for homicide, Alaska State Troopers said Friday.

Charles N. Curtis, 63, of Wasilla, was charged with criminally negligent homicide on Thursday, online records show. He also faces two counts of third-degree assault, and 10 counts of fourth-degree assault.

Curtis was driving a Premier Alaska Tours Inc. bus on July 31, 2015, when the bus was involved in a seven-vehicle collision, troopers said in a written statement Friday.

Witnesses to the crash said at the time that the Anchorage-bound bus rear-ended a pickup and trailer that were slowing down for a turning vehicle. The bus rolled into oncoming traffic and was hit head-on by a southbound SUV.

The driver of the SUV, 55-year-old John Zollner III, was killed.

The Seward Highway at Mile 80 was closed for roughly 10 hours while troopers conducted their investigation and emergency responders raced to help the injured.

Curtis could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Criminal negligence occurs "when the person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists," according to Alaska Statutes.

"The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation," the law says.

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