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Sterling Highway collisions leave four dead

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Two Friday night crashes on the Sterling Highway left four people dead, several seriously injured, and the road closed for almost 10 hours.

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William Tillery, 46, and Angela Tillery, 45, both of Anchorage, died at the scene of the first accident. The second accident left 5-month-old Hayley Watt of Chugiak dead. Four-year-old Levi Watt, also of Chugiak, succumbed to injuries sustained during the second crash and died at Central Peninsula Hospital Saturday evening.

The accidents happened within one hour of each other, with the first occuring several minutes before 6 p.m. It involved a Jeep carrying Palmer resident Richard Moffitt, 23, and a Honda motorcycle carrying William Tillery and Angela Tillery.

Investigation revealed the motorcycle, which was towing a small travel trailer, was traveling southbound near Mile 64.5 of the Sterling Highway when the northbound Jeep crossed the center line and collided head-on with the motorcycle.

Moffitt was transported to CPH with injuries.

Central Emergency Services, Alaska State Troopers Soldotna Patrol, and the Bureau of Highway Patrol's Kenai Peninsula Team responded to the scene.

The responding agencies closed the road and, according to Troopers Public Information Officer Megan Peters, could have easily rerouted people through Skilak Lake road had the subsequent accident not occurred only an hour later.

About 45 minutes after receiving the first 911 call, another accident was reported 25 miles down the road at Mile 40.5 involving a Chevrolet SUV carrying four people and a Chevrolet pick-up truck carrying one person.

Investigation revealed Chugiak resident Shaina Watt, 27, was traveling southbound when she attempted to pass a vehicle. During the pass she lost control of the SUV and collided with the northbound pick-up truck driven by Palmer resident James McPherson, 61.

Watt, a female adult passenger, and Levi Watt were airlifted by Life Med helicopter to CPH. Hayley Watt died at the scene, while Levi Watt died at the hospital the following day. McPherson was transported to the hospital for minor injuries.

Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in either crash, Peters said, although as with any highway fatality, toxicology reports will be conducted.

Initial reports received indicated a semi-truck was involved in the second accident; however, this turned out to be untrue.

"It was so hectic that some of the information was lost in translation," Peters said.

Between trying to allocate resources, triaging the crash victims, and closing the road, Peters said the evening was absolutely chaotic.

"It was a madhouse," she said.

Peters knows that people are anxious to get where they are going, but urges drivers to use extreme caution on the roads.

"Be patient on the roads. Take your time," she said. "We had three people die last night."

The highway reopened at 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

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