A mournful Pride
by Mel Green
Just a few minutes after it began, Anchorage’s annual Pride parade ended in tragedy with the accidental death of James L. Crump, a registered nurse with the Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services and a loved member of the Anchorage LGBT community. James will be remembered at a Pride Ecumenical Service on Sunday, June 26 at 1:00 PM at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church at Lake Otis and Tudor.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Grand Marshal's car shortly before the parade began"][/caption]
In spite of grey skies, cool and windy weather, and the fear of rain, Anchorage’s Alaska Pride Fest began with excitement and anticipation this morning as the LGBT’s annual Pride parade participants assembled on D Street just south of 6th Avenue. A few blocks away on 6th Avenue across from F Street, in front of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts (PAC), Daphne DoAll LaChores of Mad Myrna’s Friday Night Divas had already been greeting fans and admirers and warming up to emcee the parade for at least a half hour. I’d taken some photos of her around 10:30 on my way to D Street, where I took additional photos before the parade’s beginning, including this of the Grand Marshal’s car, which I learned from press accounts later was a 1971 Triumph Stag:
Update: The man in the green shirt and baseball cap has been identified as James L. Crump.[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Dykes on Bikes turning off D Street onto 6th Avenue at the parade's start at about 11:04 AM."][/caption]
The parade started shortly after 11:00 after the last regular traffic was let through on 6th Avenue. Dykes on Bikes led off, heading up to where Daphne and the largest collection of spectators were gathered.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="One of the buses still coming up 6th Avenue when the parade began. The pink figure in the background is emcee Daphne DoAll LaChores."][/caption]
They had only two lanes of 6th Avenue’s three lanes: two People Mover buses were still moving along the street from the Transit Center at 6th and G — a factor which may have lent confusion to the traffic situation where tragedy soon unfolded.
Here’s what I saw: I had run up the street alongside the Dykes on Bikes, intending to continue taking photos of the entire parade as it moved through Daphne’s location at the PAC. Daphne typically engages with all the parade participants as they go through, eliciting lots of laughter and great photo opportunities. Daphne spent longer than usual with Dykes on Bikes, chiefly because the parade had come to an unanticipated halt a block away, between E and D Streets. In between taking photos, I fleetingly wondered what the delay was. None of us at 6th and F was aware of the tragedy that was already transpiring behind us.[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="At about 11:07 AM. Traffic had come to a halt behind us."][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Police cars speed past the Transit Center"][/caption]
I first became aware that some kind of problem was afoot when I saw three police cars with sirens coming down 6th Avenue past the Transit Center, just about when Christopher Constant came up from where the parade was held up to tell Daphne and me that the parade marshal’s car had struck and killed someone.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Emergency vehicles in the accident area"][/caption]
I think we went into some form of shock. But we also had questions. Daphne’s question: what to tell spectators? I didn’t know. My question: could Christopher possibly be wrong? Might the person hit by the car have only been injured — but still have survived? I went back — as a fire truck and other emergency vehicles arrived — to find a figure lying on the pavement covered in a white sheet; and I knew he’d been right.
I did not take a picture of him. It seemed disrepectful of his life and its sudden loss. I did learn that his first name was James, that he was a nurse, that he was a member of our community who had attended the local MCC. I learned that the driver, Edie, was a straight ally who also was associated with MCC. Up the street, Daphne announced that an accident had occurred and the parade was canceled, that people should go on to Delaney Park Strip where the Pride picnic that always follows the parade was going to be held.
I did not know James, and I do not know Edie. But this is not a story I can write neutrally, dispassionately, from a distance. James was, and Edie is, a member of my community, and so is everyone who was present there this morning at both parade and picnic. Here’s what I prayed as I walked up H Street to the Park Strip:
I pray for you, James, and for your friends and family.
I pray for you who were in the car that struck him, and for all who were witnesses.
I pray for all of us.
I pray that those who hate us open their hearts so far as not to use this death, this loss, as another avenue of hate. I know that’s asking a lot, but I pray for it anyway.
I had no access to Internet until I got home in the evening, but at the Park Strip, E. Ross — also of Bent Alaska — told me that rumors were already afloat on Facebook that the person who had been killed was Edie — a rumor no doubt fed by initial reports (I know now) by KTUU Channel 2 News and the Anchorage Daily News that the victim was a woman. Those stories have since been corrected.
It was only later, after police released information, that we learned our lost community member was James L. Crump, 50, a nurse for the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services.
I later learned that Christopher Constant — who had first told me about the accident — had, along with Anchorage Press reporter Brendan Joel Kelley-Hellenthal and his wife Megan Kelley-Hellenthal, been carrying a banner directly in front of where James was also a banner carrier when the accident occurred. They were witnesses to the accident and his death. Brendan and Megan came briefly by the Pride picnic at Delaney Park Strip, and were still very shaken. So was Doug Frank, the parade’s Grand Marshal, who was one of three passengers in the vehicle that struck James.
This photo, from shortly before the parade began, shows Brendan, Christopher, and Megan carrying the frontmost banner. I am supposing that one of the men in the next row of banner carriers was James L. Crump. [Update: He has been identified as the man in the middle of the second row wearing a green shirt and baseball cap.] The parade marshal’s car is immediately behind, with Doug Frank standing in it.
Bent Alaska has also heard from Talyne Corlyn and Steve Belka, who also witnessed the event and and gave us permission to share these details. Talyne wrote to us,
My husband Steve and I were walking next to him.
A young guy was on the other side of him. As he fell Steve rushed to him [James] and held as he passed. Steve is experienced in EMS and spoke with him and touched his face. I guess we just you to know that he wasn’t alone at that moment and somehow, it’s helping me a little. Steve is grieving though and since we live out of town and run in different circles, we don’t have anyone nearby to be with. So we have decided, to visit MCC tomorrow morning.
He was a kind and funny soul. Our hearts are with everyone on this day and with his family in California.
MCC no longer exists, but tomorrow (Sunday) at 1 PM there will be a Pride Ecumenical Service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, on the corner of Tudor and Lake Otis (where MCC used to meet.) Everyone is welcome to attend.
The following videos were taken at the Pride festival at Delaney Park Strip. Festival goers did not initially know the identity of the accident victim until Identity board member Vic Carlson announced it midway through.
Per the Anchorage Daily News:
Police late Saturday identified the victim as 50-year-old James L. Crump of Anchorage. Crump worked as a nurse for the city’s Health and Human Services department, police said.
The 1971 Triumph Stag convertible was traveling at a low speed when it hit and dragged the man, police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said.
Police said the driver was Edith Bailey, 70, of Eagle River.
Grand Marshal Doug Frank said he was riding in the black convertible when the driver had trouble with the car’s accelerator. It lurched forward, Frank said.
“It ran over a person, totally over,” he said, sobbing. “This went from one of the best days of my life to the worst.”
Crump’s body, covered in a white sheet, lay in the middle of Sixth Avenue between D and E streets in front of the JC Penney garage following the accident. Rescuers tried unsuccessfully to revive Crump with CPR, Parker said.
Police will be looking closely at any mechanical issues with the car, Parker said.
The Alaska Dispatch:
A 50-year-old man who was participating in the Alaska PrideFest was killed in what the parade’s grand marshal described as a “horrible accident” just before the parade began on Sixth Ave. in downtown Anchorage.
James L. Crump, a registered nurse with the city’s Department of Health and Human Services, was walking in front of the convertible that PrideFest Grand Marshal Doug Frank was riding in. Frank, who is a longtime Alaskan and activist in Anchorage’s LGBQT community, described Crump as “someone he’s seen out in the community.”
The car, a Triumph Stag with a Corvette engine, was driven by Edith Bailey, a 70-year-old Eagle River resident. According to Frank, the car lurched forward, Crump fell down and the car drove over him.
“It was awful. The man didn’t say a word or make a sound. Hopefully it was fast and painless,” Frank said.
It all happened quickly, between 10:45 and 11 a.m., just before the parade was to officially begin.
In fact, it was shortly after 11:00 AM, a few minutes after the parade began. The Alaska Dispatch goes on:
Frank said that Bailey was devastated.
“The best, happiest day of my life became the worst,” Frank said.
Lt. Dave Parker said that alcohol was not believed to have been a factor in the accident, according to a press release from the department late Saturday afternoon.
One eyewitness, who had mistaken the long-haired man [in fact, James Crump had very short hair — Ed.] for a woman, said that floats were lined up, waiting to begin, when an event organizer relayed the bad news. He called it an “irresponsible” and unfortunate turn of events for a day that had been especially joyful for Alaska’s queer communities, coming hours after the state of New York had legalized gay marriage, doubling the number of American gay men and women who could legally wed.
I have found, since downloading photos, that my camera had from a distance captured some of what happened, as police and rescuers had attempted to revive James Crump. I am so sorry they could not. We at Bent Alaska send our deepest condolences to his friends, family, and coworkers. In the words of one of our Facebook friends,
Hearts and prayers for the victim’s family, friends and loved ones. Hearts and prayers to bystanders, parade participants, the driver and passengers, their families, friends and loved ones. To the entire LGBTQ community.
Rest in peace.
- “Updated: Traffic Fatality Halts Gay Pridefest Parade” by Christine Kim, Amberia Hill, and Tim Akimoff (KTUU Channel 2 News).
- “Car hits, kills marcher in PrideFest parade –SLOW: Grand marshal said driver had accelerator trouble” by Casey Grove (Anchorage Daily News, June 25, 2011). [Note: Quotes of this story may vary from final version, which has been updated at least twice since it was first reported.]
- “Parade Walker Killed At Alaska Pridefest Parade” by Kirsten Swann and Heather VacLav (KTVA Channel 11 News, June 25, 2011).
- “Nurse killed in Alaska PrideFest accident” by Eric Christopher Adams (Alaska Dispatch, June 25, 2011).