Alaska State Troopers have publicly identified a Wasilla man who was found seriously injured on the Parks Highway near Cantwell Wednesday night, saying one of two dogs in his pickup died after it struck a semi truck and burned.
AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen says 27-year-old Roy Johnson remains in critical condition at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. His next of kin have been notified.
Ipsen also confirmed witnesses' reports that a dog died after the crash, but denied claims that it was put down or executed.
"One dog did die," Ipsen said. "He died from injuries in the crash."
A second dog ran away from the crash site, but was found by people looking for it in the area. The animal has been handed over to Mat-Su Valley patrol troopers, pending transfer to Johnson's family.
The collision happened near Mile 185 of the Parks, just after 8 p.m. Wednesday. The semi driver, 42-year-old Kevin Redd Bailey of Wasilla, was travelling north pulling double trailers, while Johnson was headed south at the wheel of a Ford F-350 pickup truck. Troopers say Johnson's pickup crossed into the northbound lane, causing Bailey to veer into the southbound lane in an unsuccessful bid to avoid the crash.
The truck “hit the semi with such force, it knocked the front end of the semi-truck off the road,” Ipsen said. Bailey’s effort to evade the truck “avoided a straight head-on collision,” resulting instead in the vehicles connecting on the front passenger sides.
Troopers say that after the collision, the F-350 rolled into a guardrail and became engulfed in flames. The semi came to a stop in a roadside ditch.
Ipsen said Thursday that Johnson sustained serious head injuries “that have prevented (troopers) from communicating” with him.
Johnson reportedly had no identification on him, and the truck was so badly burned that investigators were unable to salvage anything that could identify him from within. Ipsen said troopers used the truck’s registration to identify its owner, but that alone wasn't sufficient to confirm Johnson's identity.
Johnson was conscious when medics arrived, but Ipsen said "he did not answer questions."
Whiteout weather conditions forced Cantwell emergency responders to transport the man to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital by ambulance. Eventually he was flown to Anchorage, where he is currently being treated at ANMC.
Bailey was unhurt in the collision, but briefly unable to get out of the semi's cab. Ipsen said the snow was so deep he couldn't open his door and he eventually had to crawl out the window.
With the crashed semi completely blocking the road, the Parks Highway was closed for several hours. Ipsen says troopers traveled for three and a half hours to the scene from Fairbanks, and spent an additional three and a half hours on the scene conducting crash measurements.
The crash remains under investigation.
Channel 2's Chris Klint contributed information to this story.