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Nev. Driver Said Asleep at the Wheel

March 10, 2000

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ The driver of a van that tumbled down a steep median, killing eight people and injuring five, fell asleep at the wheel, the Nevada Highway Patrol said Thursday.

The Clark County coroner’s office said three men and five women, ages 41 to 67, were killed in the crash Wednesday. The survivors, including the van’s driver, all were in fair condition Thursday.

Alcohol did not contribute to the crash Wednesday on Interstate 15 in Jean, about 30 miles south of Las Vegas, Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Cooke said. Weather and speed also were not factors.

``Basically, the driver just fell asleep,″ Cooke said.

The driver veered off the left side of the interstate, then overcorrected, the Highway Patrol said. The van hit a guardrail and careened into a steep gravel median, flipping several times.

Bodies and personal belongings _ a purse, some shoes, a suitcase _ were strewn across the median between two roadside casinos.

The group’s green Dodge van was rented Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., by the driver, Yury Shkolnikov, 63. Cooke said the group was traveling to Las Vegas, but the relationship between them was unclear. Some members of the group apparently were married.

The other survivors were identified as: Mikhail Elkin, 60; Ana Kutikov, 63; Svetlana Shkolnikov, 58; and Marat R. Romanovskiy, 60.