FAIRBANKS - A Healy woman was killed early Thursday morning after being hit by a suspected drunken driver in a pickup truck as she rode her bike to work.
Alaska State Troopers said Gitte Stryhn, 56, was found dead in the ditch along Coal Street off Healy Spur Road just before 7 a.m. in the tight-knit community on the edge of the Alaska Range about 120 miles south of Fairbanks.
A little over three hours later, troopers arrested a local man, Dustin Dollarhide, 30, of Healy, on charges of manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol, and failure to report an accident.
Stryhn's body was found by a co-worker who called troopers at 6:53 a.m. but troopers suspect the hit-and-run accident happened closer to 5 a.m., as Stryhn rode her bike to work as a tour bus driver for the Kantishna Roadhouse, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said. Stryhn's body was found only about a block from her workplace.
Troopers contacted Dollarhide at about 10 a.m. after finding his 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 parked outside a local residence with front end damage matching debris found at the scene of the accident, according to a trooper report. He was arrested following questioning and transported to Fairbanks Correctional Center. Dollarhide is expected to be arraigned in Fairbanks Superior Court on Friday.
Debris left at the scene of the accident indicated there was a Dodge truck involved, and information from community members and a local trooper led troopers to a truck parked at a residence in Healy, Ipsen said. She did not know if it was Dollarhide's residence or how far the residence was from the collision, which occurred on a side street not far from the Parks Highway.
Court records show Dollarhide had a DUI conviction almost seven years ago after pleading no contest to a drunken driving charge.
Stryhn, a mother of four sons, had lived in Healy for almost 15 years. She moved there with her now ex-husband, Mike Schieber, from the Bush village of Ambler in Northwest Alaska, where they had homesteaded on the Ambler River, said her close friend, Ann Marie Boniakowski, who had dinner with Stryhn on Wednesday night to celebrate Stryhn's 56th birthday.
Originally from Denmark, Stryhn was a "real woman of the land" and a much-loved member of the community who would do anything for anyone, Boniakowski said.
"If you were framing a house or needed help digging a ditch, she was out there," she said.
Stryhn was an "amazing cook" who cooked all her own bread, made her own clothes and taught her four sons "how to build or fix anything," Boniakowski said. She was known to take in hitchhikers to give them a meal and a place to stay.
"She would open her house to anyone," Boniakowski said. "She just loved life. She just loved people. She was a very special person."
Boniakowski said she would miss Stryhn's sense of humor and laugh.
Stryhn built her own house after separating from her husband, said another friend, News-Miner columnist Kris Capps.
"She was an amazing, independent woman," Capps said.
Stryhn worked as a bus driver for both the local school district during the school year and for the Kantishna Roadhouse during the summer. She worked three days a week driving tourists into the roadhouse at the end of the 92-mile Denali Park Road in Denali National Park and Preserve. Stryhn had been working for Doyon, Limited, the company that owns the Kantishna Roadhouse, for the past six summers.
She was a "dream employee you never had to worry about," said her boss, Marie Monroe.
"She was a really rugged, capable person," Monroe said. "She was perfect for what we do because she had great stories to tell and was so capable."
When Stryhn failed to show up at work Thursday morning, her fellow employees knew something was wrong and went to check on her, Monroe said. A dispatcher found her dead in the ditch about a block from work, she said.
"That wasn't in her character to be late; that's why we were worried about her," Monroe said.
While she was a model employee, Stryhn was an even better friend, Monroe said.
"That's the saddest part for me this morning, losing a friend," she said.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.