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Mid-Air Collision Leaves Seven Dead on the Kenai Peninsula

July 31, 2020 (SOLDOTNA, Alaska)— At approximately 0827 hours on 7/31/2020, AST in Soldotna received a report of a plane crash near mile 91.5 of the Sterling Highway. Due to safety concerns and some debris on the roadway the Sterling Highway was temporarily closed.  The majority of the wreckage was located approximately two hundred yards from the road. The crash was reported by multiple witnesses. AST, AWT, Soldotna Police Department, Central EMS, State Parks and FAA all responded to the crash site.
 
Investigation determined that two planes were involved in a mid-air collision; one plane had a single occupant and the other aircraft had six people onboard. All but one person was deceased on scene however, the initial survivor succumbed to injuries during transport to the local hospital.
 
Troopers identified Rep. Gary Knopp, age 67, of Kenai, as the sole occupant of one plane. The six decedents from the other aircraft are identified as Pilot Gregory Bell, age 57 of Soldotna; Guide David Rogers, age 40 of Kansas; Caleb Hulsey, age 26, of South Carolina; Heather Hulsey, age 25 of South Carolina; Mackay Hulsey, age 24, of South Carolina; Kirstin Wright, age 23, of South Carolina.
 
NTSB has been notified and will be conducting the investigation as to the cause of this crash.
 
“This is an unfathomable tragedy for multiple families today. The DPS sends a heartfelt condolence to all who lost a loved one in this mid-air collision,” said Commissioner Amanda Price, Department of Public Safety. “Troopers and partner agencies have worked together diligently at the scene and have reached out to next of kin to notify them of this heartbreaking incident.”
 
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DPS Alaska Law Enforcement Training Academy Hits New Recent High

July 23, 2020 (SITKA, Alaska)— This coming Sunday, July 26, Alaska Law Enforcement Training (ALET) 20-02 is slated to begin with 53 recruits from multiple agencies. If all the recruits make it to the academy, it will be the largest class since 2007, surpassing ALET 20-01 by one recruit. The academy will be near maximum capacity with 16 Alaska State Troopers, eight Alaska Wildlife Troopers, two Court Services Officers, 11 municipal officers, six Airport Police and Fire officers and 10 Village Public Safety Officers.

The Fall 2020 hiring cycles were the most challenging in recent memory for the DPS Recruitment Unit. This was not only because of the very high initial application number— 1,539— but also because COVID-19 hit our nation right before our big testing weeks in April and June kicked off.

“To preserve the work of the previous year in reaching out to applicants and working them through the many difficult steps in the process while still managing our responsibility to mitigate this pandemic in our state, we had to retool our entire testing regimen,” said Alaska State Trooper Captain David Willson. We accomplished this with a variety of electronic tools and were able to largely preserve a hiring cycle that, even after a record number of withdrawn applications, is tied for the largest class of Trooper Recruits that we’ve sent to Sitka in the last decade.”

Most of the recruits traveling to Sitka are from in state. However, nobody will be able to walk into the academy without a negative COVID-19 test result. If recruits do not have a negative test result from within 72-hours prior to arriving in Sitka, they fly to Sitka a day early and stay at a hotel while awaiting a test result. The DPS is contracting with a private lab to COVID test recruits, with a 24-hour result turnaround.

“I hope all Alaskans join me in thanking these recruits for embarking on a journey to serve this great state even as we navigate a global pandemic,” said Commissioner Amanda Price, Department of Public Safety. “We are eager to begin training these recruits to provide quality public safety services in all corners of our state.”

“Alaskans deserve quality law enforcement officers. I am dedicated to supporting the efforts and standards of the Department of Public Safety’s training academy. The professional staff have consistently delivered highly trained officers to protect Alaskans,” said Governor Mike Dunleavey. “All Alaskans deserve quality public safety and I would like to thank each recruit for endeavoring to provide that crucial service.”

CSOs will be at the academy for five weeks of training. Municipal, Airport Police and Fire and VPSOs will graduate after 16 weeks of training. Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers will continue training specific to DPS for an additional two weeks after graduation.

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DPS Publishes Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Interim Report

July 23, 2020 (ANCHORAGE) – This week, the Department of Public Safety made the SAKI Interim Report available online for the public. The SAKI project, funded through a federal grant, launched in January of 2017. The DPS and its partner agencies created a multidisciplinary working group to manage the project and to come up with recommendations to improve outcomes for survivors and the process for sexual assault investigations.
The DPS is moving forward with the recommendations of the working group and is applying for federal grant funds in an effort to implement SAKI tracking software and a program that will track the outcome of CODIS hits.
“The DPS is continuously evaluating its practices and procedures in order to best serve Alaskans; the SAKI initiative demonstrates that,” said Commissioner Amanda Price, Department of Public Safety. “We are committed to supporting the survivors of sexual assaults by keeping them better informed and taking every appropriate investigative path to hold offenders accountable in hopes of ending the plague of sexual violence in Alaska.”
More information regarding SAKI can be found online at: https://dps.alaska.gov/Comm/SAK/Home
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