Friend remembers man killed in West Anchorage bridge crash

Records show permit of truck hauling city-owned equipment did not allow travel under Minnesota Drive overpass
Friend remembers man killed in West Anchorage bridge accident
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 8:59 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - One week after a deadly crash on Minnesota Drive, family and friends are dealing with the loss of the man killed in the incident.

The scene played out last Tuesday when a commercial vehicle carrying an excavator arm that was too high collided with the Hillcrest Drive overpass while driving northbound on Minnesota.

A Jeep driven by 43-year-old Jason Collins was also traveling northbound on the same road and was hit with equipment that had fallen off the commercial vehicle, with the debris piercing the windshield of Collins’ car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Collins, who went by Jay to most, was a dear friend to those who knew him. That includes his best friend of nearly 20 years, Alexander Clark, who posted a heartfelt tribute on his personal Facebook page.

“He helped me build parts of my house and our guest cabin,” Clark wrote. “And he did all the wiring. Not to mention helping me turn wrenches on my planes.”

In his brief epilogue on Facebook, Clark wrote that Collins was a commercial pilot flying for a big box hauler company and owned a small aircraft. Clark said Collins had just finished a flight physical and “was driving over to meet his sweetheart for lunch” when the crash occurred.

Anchorage police say a backhoe owned by the municipality was being hauled when it hit the overpass. According to Justin Shelby with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, a piece of the backhoe broke off, striking Jay’s vehicle.

“My understanding is that the excavator arm was torn off by the impact with the bridge, went through the cab of the backhoe before striking a nearby SUV,” Shelby said.

According to the department, the overpass is marked at 14 feet, 3 inches, while the permit that the company towing the equipment, Vulcan Towing and Recovery, possessed was operating with a final condition that requires drivers not to travel under any overhead structure posted at less than 15 feet in height.

According to the Department of Transportation, Vulcan Towing owned a general permit issued on an annual basis without any disclosure by the permittee as to the nature of the loads that will be transported or the routes by which the permittee plans to travel.

Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration was not able to answer specific questions asked by Alaska’s News Source regarding the ongoing investigation of the crash.

“What we can say is that every death is tragic, and that the Mayor sends his thoughts and prayers to the family of the individual who perished in this accident,” Hans Rodvik, the mayor’s spokesperson, said in an email.

The Anchorage Police Department had no additional statements besides the information already released in its traffic investigation alert.

However, the loss of Collins still hurts those who knew him best. Clark initially began his emotional post by writing, “the person killed on Minnesota Drive in Anchorage was one of us.”

“We trusted Jay to watch our house, teach our kids how to Kayak and sail-board,” the post read. “He and Siri took care of our dogs when we were out of town and many more things. When he was not at work, he was always out in the bush, either on skis or snowshoes, or kayaking, or snow-kiting (...) along with his sweetheart Siri.”