Auke Lake accident investigation update

Juneau Police Chief Greg Browning says the investigation into the June 23rd deadly accident on Auke Lake may take weeks.

Browning and City Manager Kim Kiefer held a press availability late Friday to review the preliminary investigation into the accident that resulted in the death of 16-year-old Savannah Cayce, of Juneau.

Kiefer also repeated JPD’s need to identify and interview witnesses who actually saw the inner tube/ jet ski collision.

“We are asking anyone who many have seen the collision, or who have video or photographs, to contact JPD at 586-0600, if you have not already talked with them,” Kiefer said.

Cayce and a friend were being towed by a jet ski when the accident happened somewhere in the middle of the lake. Browning says police have not yet determined if the accident occurred within or outside of the motorized zone.

The preliminary investigation also shows the inner tube struck the starboard side of another jet ski, which was traveling at a slow rate of speed. But Browning says police are still developing estimates as to how fast both jet skis were going.

Browning says enforcement at Auke Lake has always been a problem.

“We don’t have a boat, or officers trained in that aspect of policing,” Browning said. “So we make the attempt to enforce from the shore, which sometimes can be difficult.”

Early in the investigation police said alcohol was not involved in the accident. Browning on Friday indicated neither jet ski driver was given a breath test at the scene.

He said when the investigation is complete, the district attorney’s office will determine if any charges will be filed against anyone connected to the accident.

This small map near the Auke Lake boat launch depicts non-motorized and no-wake zones. It will be part of the city review of regulations. Photo by Rosemarie Alexander.

Then the city will begin a review of the policies regulating boating activity on Auke Lake. Kiefer said that should not begin until police know the cause of the accident.

“I believe there are regulations in place to try and keep people safe, but until the investigation is complete I can’t tell you if any change of regulation would have made a difference,” Kiefer said. “We want to make sure we have a complete investigation to know the actual cause before we review what’s currently in place.”

Auke Lake is owned by the state of Alaska. The city of Juneau regulates boating activities. When those regulations were put in place in 2007, they were evaluated by the state Department of Natural Resources. Kiefer says DNR will be asked to participate in the city’s review.

Kiefer said the city sends its deepest sympathies to the Cayce family and to Juneau youth who have been affected by the accident.