29 Hours: a crash, a 911 call, and the rescuers that never arrived.

 Gary Bishop (Image courtesy of Bishop Family)
Gary Bishop (Image courtesy of Bishop Family) (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 1, 2019 at 5:15 PM AKDT
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When Gary Bishop, a 71-year-old man from Wasilla, veered off the Glenn Highway on a September afternoon in 2017, the accident began a four-month stretch of medical complications from which he would not recover.

Bishop's medical care topped $1 million dollars, and his family believes a quicker rescue could have saved his life.

Although a witness to the accident immediately called 911, Bishop remained trapped and seriously injured inside his Ford Crown Victoria for 29 hours.

He died more than four months later on February 4, 2018.

An obituary published by the family described Bishop as an avid outdoorsman and loyal family man who adored his grandchildren. A pilot, he enjoyed flying, hunting and fishing.

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the various entities and individuals involved in the 911 response.

"I can't think of a larger impact on a family than an unnecessary death and that's exactly what this was," the family's attorney, Jeff Vance, told KTUU.

Named defendants include the State of Alaska, Department of Public Safety, an Alaska State Trooper who looked for but did not find Bishop, Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage Police Department, City of Wasilla, and John Does I-V.

All of them declined to be interviewed for this story.

The accident occurred near the response boundary between Anchorage at the Mat-Su valley. The first Knik River Bridge between Anchorage and the Mat-Su valley is often an assumed boundary mark, as is the Old Glenn Highway.

Bishop crashed between the two, near milepost 29.9, where the northbound on-ramp from the Old Glenn Highway merges with the main Glenn Highway.

Dispatch logs from the day of the crash and the day after reveal some confusion between dispatchers about which jurisdiction the crash site was in, and who should respond.

Wasilla's 911 emergency dispatch services, Mat-Com, took over and sent an Alaska State Trooper to see if a crash site could be located.

According to a transcript of the trooper's call with dispatchers, the trooper at one point got out of his vehicle and walked the treeline near the crash site, but never found Bishop's car.

It wasn't until one of the same witnesses and 9-1-1 callers to the crash returned to the site the following day, that the wreck - and Bishop - were found.

The witness, who asked to remain anonymous, told KTUU he'd gone back to the site a day later after learning that Gary Bishop was missing.

Calls about two situations - a car going off the road, and a missing man - had come into 911 separately.

The crash witness thought the missing man must have been the driver and car he'd seen go off the road.

On Sept. 18, 2017, he found the car about twenty feet off the roadway at rest among a line of birch trees and willow. The rear of the car was visible from the road.

The witness thought Bishop was dead. He nearly was.

After a call to 9-1-1 stating he'd found the crash site, emergency responders came and revived Bishop.

Vance told KTUU Bishop spent most of his final months alive in a coma.

The lawsuit points to numerous failures in the 911 response regarding Bishop's crash, including that dispatchers never sent fire and medical personnel to the scene after being notified someone had gone off the road, that Anchorage and Mat-Su dispatchers were unclear on their response areas, and that the responding trooper may have lied about his efforts to locate the crash site.

"What should be a sound, solid system of responding to people's lives in jeopardy and requiring an immediate response...failed in every avenue in Mr. Bishop and his family's case," Vance said in an interview with KTUU.

The lawsuit seeks to recover medical expenses and an award of damages for the family.

"The citizens of Alaska have a right to understand what happened in this breakdown, what happened in this failure to respond timely, accurately and in a manner that would have saved Mr. Bishop's life," he said.

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