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Flags Lowered For James Hesterberg

Corrections Officer, 4 Prisoners Killed in Seward Accident

Wednesday, November 27, 2002, 12:40 am

Gov. Tony Knowles has ordered state flags lowered to half staff on Wednesday, November 27th in memory of James "Jamie" Hesterberg of Wasilla. The Department of Corrections officer and four prisoners died Tuesday when an 18-wheeler struck a state van near Kenai Lake about 20 miles north of Seward on the snow- and slush-slickened Seward Highway. Nine people were aboard the van: seven prisoners and two prison transport officers. The prisoners were being driven to Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. The impact caused the Ford van to go over a guard rail and it landed on its roof.

Officer Hesterberg, 48, the van's driver, died at the scene. The 19-year veteran of the Department of Corrections is the first corrections officer in Alaska to be killed in the line of duty. He was anticipating retirement next September.

Hesterberg is survived by his wife, Debra, and their three children: Scott, 14, Catherine, 13, and Mark, 12. The funeral will be held Wednesday, November 27 at 11:00 a.m. at the Anchorage Baptist Temple. The family, state correctional officers, and the Public Safety Employees Association established the Jamie Hesterberg Memorial Fund. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank branch or through the Public Safety Employees Association, 4300 Boniface Parkway, No. 116, Anchorage, AK 99504.

The collision happened in the midst of a snow squall at roughly Mile 19.5 of the Seward Highway, a narrow area of the road where several accidents have occurred in the past. The other officer in the van, Dennis Nilsen of Eagle River, was treated at Providence Seward Medical Center in Seward and then released. Three injured prisoners were taken to Providence Seward Medical Center. Two of them were later flown to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage.

The inmates who died were Alphonsus Damian, 37, of Anchorage; William Olanna, 39, of Brevig Mission; Moses Usugan, 40, no hometown given; and Martin Fife, 33, of Anchorage. All were due for release within one year.

In memory of his service to the people and the state of Alaska, Gov. Tony Knowles has ordered state flags lowered to half-staff in memory of Officer James Hesterberg and the Alaskans in his custody on Wednesday, November 27. Flags may be raised to full staff at the end of the business day.

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