N.D. state Senate majority leader dies in Alaska car crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 18, 2011 11:38 PM
N.D. state Senate majority leader dies in Alaska car crash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The majority leader of North Dakota's Republican-controlled state Senate was killed on Monday when the vehicle he was driving back from a fishing trip veered off a road and crashed in Alaska.

Bob Stenehjem, 59, first elected to North Dakota's part-time Senate in 1992, was taken to a hospital in Soldotna, Alaska, a town about 70 miles southwest of Anchorage, where he was pronounced dead, his wife, Kathy, told Reuters.

She said their eldest son, Rob, suffered minor injuries in the wreck, a grandson was unhurt and a third passenger was listed in critical condition.

Alaska state police spokeswoman Megan Peters said the cause of the single-vehicle accident, which occurred just before noon local time on the Sterling Highway about 5 miles south of Soldotna, was under investigation.

Reached by telephone at the couple's home in Bismarck, North Dakota, the state capital, Kathy Stenehjem said she was told that the car veered off the road and flipped over.

She said authorities were looking into whether her husband's history of heart problems may have been a factor or whether he may have "drifted off asleep" at the wheel, fatigued from a night of halibut fishing near the village of Homer.

"We're not sure," she said.

Active in politics for much of his life, Stenehjem also was the roads and streets foreman for the city of Bismarck. Representing District 30 of North Dakota, he planned to run for reelection next year, seeking a sixth four-year term, his wife said.

She said the senator's brother, John, and son, Rob, both live in Soldotna.

Stenehjem and his wife have a total of four children and three grandchildren, according to his website.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Bohan)