Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Survivor gives account of truck wreck over cliff

 

May 5, 2011



State trooper Josh Bentz said Saturday he was still investigating a spectacular wreck that sent a pickup truck over a 30-foot cliff on a switchback driveway near 9 Mile Haines Highway on April 26.

Resident Kayti Hicks, 29, suffered seven broken ribs, a punctured lung and a punctured pancreas and the 2007 Toyota Tacoma pickup she was driving was totaled. Rescuers and others who traced the trajectory of the wreck by tire tracks and wreckage left on the gravel road there said it could have been worse.

"She made the first corner, went off the road, landed on the second switchback, rolled over the edge of that and landed on the bottom," Bentz said. "Looking at the truck, I’m shocked she survived it."

Hicks was driving downhill and had gone around the first of three switchbacks when tire tracks showed her truck started to swerve. The rig landed on the driveway entrance only moments after neighbor Jessica Edwards – heading up the driveway – passed the same spot.

Edwards had her newborn daughter in the car and had turned up the first switchback when she came across a "big plume of dust." "I’m just glad no one was more seriously injured," Edwards said.

In an interview, Hicks said the truck seemed to start speeding after she hit a bump. "I was trying to brake and keep it on the road."

Bentz said tire marks at the scene "looked like it was peeling out as it went off" the road the first time. "She said the car was hopping or lunging forward," the trooper said.

"The thing that makes this one interesting is no one really knows how it happened or why it happened," Bentz said.

"Part of the mystery is (Hicks) doesn’t really remember what happened. She made the corner and after that she doesn’t remember anything. It may have been a mechanical problem with the truck. She may have hit the gas instead of the brake. Or she may have been driving way too fast and blacked out. I don’t know," Bentz said.

Blood and urine samples taken from Hicks immediately after the accident found no alcohol, he said.

Hicks told the CVN the tire tracks indicated she overcorrected when the truck started "to act funny." Hicks said she’s driven tour buses for six years and is a careful driver. "It was shocking to not have more control. I can usually get a rig to respond. This one had a serious malfunction."

Hicks, who was not belted in, told the CVN she was thrown into the truck’s rear seat after the car left the road the first time. She said the side air bags deployed but not air bags in the front of the truck.

Hicks said she was researching whether the wreck may have been linked to a recall of malfunctioning Toyotas. Tacomas from 2007 have been identified as among vehicles with an accelerator that may become stuck due to contact with floor mats.

Trooper Bentz said he was looking into recall issues with the vehicle. He said he had not inspected the accelerator.