HELENA – Leaders at Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena say they will be going through a review process after a 15-year-old patient got out of the facility and was killed in a crash on Interstate 15.
Shodair leaders say Monday’s crash was a tragedy.
“I do want to back up and really lift up the family involved in the case,” said CEO Craig Aasved. “Our condolences are with them – and not only the family of the patient involved but also the family and the person involved driving the vehicle.”
Shodair confirmed that the patient set off a fire alarm, which caused the hospital’s locks to open. The girl then ran out of the building. Helena police said she walked onto I-15, where she was hit by a pickup truck.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff-Coroner Leo Dutton identified the victim as Kayla Neal of Missoula.
Aasved said Shodair contacted not only the victim’s family but the families of all their other patients, “we wanted them to hear directly from us, instead of from other outlets,” he said.
Leaders said this was the first time a patient under Shodair’s care has died since they became a mental health hospital several decades ago.
However, Aasved said there have been other cases where patients have pulled the fire alarm and tried to leave the premises.
“We have the fire marshal involved, who will be at our facility tomorrow to do a walkthrough and hopefully identify solutions to prevent this from further happening – not only at Shodair but across the country,” he said.
Aasved said, right now, the hospital is focusing on supporting their staff and the families involved.
They have their own in-house counselors and other resources, and they have brought in chaplains, priests and other advisers. Aasved said St. Peter’s Health also offered to help them.
“We have had a lot of support from this community to assist us during these tough times,” he said.
In the coming weeks, they will be looking at possible changes they can make to address this type of incident.
“We will be doing our own internal review, as well as cooperating with other outside agencies for other reviews that will occur,” said Aasved.
Helena Police Department Chief Steve Hagen said officers were back at the crash scene on Tuesday to continue their investigation.
He said the investigation is still open, and it may be some time before they are able to make a final determination on whether any charges will be filed.
-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News