BETHEL AK May 5 2017 – An off-duty local police sergeant was the driver who hit two pedestrians on Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway late on the night of April 22, the Bethel police chief said Wednesday.
One of the victims, Julia Steven, 49, later died at a hospital in Anchorage.
Sgt. Kadri Limani, who oversees patrol for the small police force, was driving a 2004 Ford Taurus heading into town when the vehicle struck two people in the road, Bethel Police Department Chief Andre Achee said.
Achee said he only learned the woman had died from a report on Bethel-based public radio station KYUK and that the hospital didn't notify police of the death.
Limani told the investigating Bethel officer, Joe Corbett, he didn't see the people in the roadway until he struck them. He stopped, called 911 and started CPR on Steven, Achee said, reading from the police report.
The call came in around 11:30 p.m., and it was dark along that stretch of highway near the Bethel trailer court neighborhood, the chief said.
Police had initially declined to identify the driver, saying they only do so in fatal vehicle crashes if the driver faces charges. A new city policy now provides for the names of drivers to be released in serious accidents even if no one is charged, Achee said.
There's no evidence Limani did anything wrong and Bethel police have not filed any charges, the chief said.
"He was sober. There was no indication of any intoxicant in his system," Achee said. "It was an unfortunate tragedy."
Limani voluntarily took a breath test, and it showed he had not been drinking, the chief said. He also submitted to a blood test, as is required under state law for serious crashes, but those results are not yet in, Achee said.
Police asked Alaska State Troopers to investigate the incident to avoid any appearance of a conflict, but troopers in Bethel did not have anyone available to send to the scene, Achee said.
Police now have turned the case file over to troopers for an external review, he said.