Story last updated at 2:32 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2002

Wild weekend shakes Anchor Point
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Willy Nye of East End Road fishes the Anchor River near its mouth Saturday morning, while many of the campers along the beach sleep. Incidents of rowdy and drunken behavior kept Troopers busy throughout the weekend.  
A Memorial Day weekend of camping and fishing on the Anchor River was marred for many as Alaska State Troopers responded to accidents, fights, fires and drunken behavior.

"It was ugly in Anchor Point all weekend long," Trooper Jim Hibpshman said.

In one of the scariest scenes of the weekend, a 17-year-old boy was injured when the modified pickup he was riding on ran over him. The driver was attempting to drive up the side of the bluff with the unidentified boy riding on the vehicle's flatbed fell off. He was hit when the truck rolled backward.

When Trooper Rick Roberts responded to the report around 3 a.m. Sunday, the Anchor Point medics, with the injured teen, were on their way to South Peninsula Hospital. The boy was tareated for cuts and abrasions and released. He was cited for consuming alcohol. Troopers said the driver of the truck, a 30-year-old man, was not identified. Roberts was out of town and unavailable to say whether the man had been charged in the incident.

Roberts reported that several hundred people, mostly minors from Homer and Anchor Point, were attending a beach party south of the Anchor River access road.

Several hours later, an explosion erupted on the beach as somebody set fire to the truck that had run over the boy.

Sometime between 4 and 5 a.m., off-duty Homer Police Sgt. Lary Kuhns witnessed the explosion while fishing from a boat approximately three miles south of the Anchor River mouth.

"All of a sudden we look up and see a fireball and black smoke that was obviously petroleum-based," Kuhns said. "We were hoping it wasn't somebody's camper."

When Kuhns came back to the river mouth to pull his boat from the water, the truck was still burning.

He said he heard from bystanders that the fire was set out of revenge.

Troopers received complaints that drunken revelers, some of whom were accused of vomiting and urinating around other people's vehicles and campsites, were not observing park quiet hours.

Hibpshman said one of the campground hosts wound up at odds with some revelers when he tried to enforce campground rules. The host complained to troopers that the group got angry and pulled their vehicles in front of his camper, intentionally spraying it with gravel from their tires.

Not everybody who camped near the river had trouble with overzealous partying.

Willy and Deb Nye, who were camping with their teenage children a few hundred yards from one of the main party spots, didn't have any problems with the scene.

"The troopers were definitely cruising back and forth for a while, but I didn't hear of anything too extreme," said Deb Nye, who added that she and her husband had visited one of the parties that her kids were attending. "We had a good time. We didn't catch many fish, but we had fun."

Hibpshman disagreed with claims from some locals that much of the weekend's rowdiness was caused by partiers from Anchorage.

"I know I'm going to take some heat for saying this, but these were local kids," he said.

According to Hibpshman, kids often billed their activities to parents as a weekend of beach camping and fishing, but is in reality for many kids a four-day drinking binge.

Hibpshman said he hears parents say they don't want to check up on their kids' activities because it might seem intrusive.

"I would encourage parents to go take a look around and see what's going on," Hibpshman said. "Its not a crime for parents to go see what kind of party their kids are at. It's strongly encouraged."

Some of the teenagers hanging out on the beach acknowledged that they had no interest in fishing and hadn't brought any gear.

Roberts described one incident when a teenager, apparently intoxicated and trying to avoid a citation for underage drinking, waded into the Anchor River without the benefit of waders. The youth refused to come out of the river and eventually swam to the other side and escaped.

While there were plenty of people who did fish, most anglers appeared to be either younger kids or adults.

At just after 5 a.m. Saturday, one rowdy group decided it was time to run their remote-controlled hot rod in and out of nearby campsites.

Though some arrests were made, Hibpshman said with a limited crew of Troopers patrolling the lower Kenai Peninsula, they could not afford to do more than write tickets in most cases.

"How we got through (this weekend) without a fatality is by God's good graces," he said. "We need to address this problem now. Is this what we want (Memorial Day weekend) to be? I had people come to me and tell me they'd been coming here for years and didn't want to come back any more."