Driver in fatal Unalaska car crash set to face trial this summer

a courthouse
The Unalaska courthouse (Sofia Stuart-Rasi/KUCB)

Dustin Ruckman, 23, will face an Unalaska jury in late August on manslaughter charges in a single-vehicle crash off a cliff that killed two teenage girls nearly five years ago.

In early May of 2019, Ruckman, a high schooler at the time, drove his truck off of Unalaska’s Ulakta Head Cliff. Karly McDonald, 16, and Kiara R. Haist, 18, were ejected from the vehicle and killed as the pickup descended 900 feet down the cliff.

Ruckman claimed to have been thrown from the vehicle. He suffered minor injuries and was charged with offenses including criminally negligent homicide and reckless driving.

A trial date was set for last summer, but several hiccups and changes have delayed progress in the criminal case.

At a March 6 status hearing, Superior Court Judge Thomas Matthews, who was recently appointed to the case, said it will go to trial Aug. 19. Jury selection will begin the first day of the trial.

The defense’s counsel Julia Moudy has mentioned that she is considering filing a motion to have the venue changed. But as of now, it is still set to take place in Unalaska.

Prosecutors Patrick McKay Jr. and Oliver Nolan with the District Attorney’s Office are representing the state.

Another status hearing is scheduled for May 8.

There is also an ongoing civil superior case against Ruckman and his family members, who are being represented by Micheal Hanson. Anthony Baker is representing Haist’s parents in their complaint for wrongful death.

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