Driver in fatal Petersburg van wreck pleads guilty

A memorial for two killed in the July 4, 2016 van crash overlooks Petersburg’s South Harbor. (Photo by Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

A memorial for two killed in the July 4, 2016 van crash overlooks Petersburg’s South Harbor. (Photo by Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

A former Petersburg borough employee Wednesday changed his plea in the van wreck that killed two people and injured a third on July 4th, 2016.

Chris Allen, 25, and the state came to a sentencing agreement that will mean the dismissal of other charges and he will avoid trial, which was scheduled to happen this summer.

Allen pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter. Charges of murder and assault were dismissed. Sentencing is scheduled for December.

Allen was driving a borough van that went off the road and flipped over just south of downtown that morning.

Allen and the three other borough employees were helping to set up for a running race for the borough’s Independence Day celebration.

The crash killed Molly Parks, 18, and Marie Giesbrecht, 19, the daughter of the borough manager.

The state charged Allen with second-degree murder, alleging he ignored doctors’ orders not to drive after a documented history of seizures.

Allen appeared from a Fairbanks courtroom by teleconference before superior court Judge Trevor Stephens in Petersburg.

Stephens asked Allen about his understanding of the sentencing agreement and the rights he was giving up with the guilty plea.

Allen made no statement other than to answer yes to the judge’s questions and enter the guilty plea.

The judge has final say on the length of the jail sentence and also will have to decide on length or conditions of probation.

Attorneys for the two sides will be arguing those conditions over the next three months.

Friends and family of both the victims and the defendant attended the hearing in the Petersburg courtroom.

Some are expected to make a statement during sentencing scheduled at 9 a.m. Dec. 10 at the Petersburg courthouse.

Allen was returned custody and will await that sentencing in jail.

Allen, the Petersburg borough and the state also face a civil suit from the family of Molly Parks.

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