GREAT FALLS — Five people died in four crashes within three days in north-central Montana, putting Montana on track for one of the most deaths in a single year in recent history.
“There has been an increase in fatalities throughout the year, we started off with a drastic increase compared to the last three years. However, since then the number has evened out a little more and we still have a few months to see how the end of the year is going to pan out," Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Jay Nelson said.
Montana has recorded 175 deaths due to crashes so far in 2021, which is 18 up from this time last year and is already higher than the total deaths in 2019. The MHP says the three primary causes of crashes are excessive speed, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and failure to wear a seatbelt.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper James Humiston says that speeding is his number one violation sees in his daily duties. For me personally, I pull over a lot of speeding. There is a lot of roadway and they are definitely speeders.”
“Speed limits are the maximum you should be traveling in ideal circumstances, so that doesn’t account for when it’s wet or icy roads or when it is heavily congested," Nelson noted. “The majority of these fatalities, because people have asked if they are just people traveling through Montana, but the majority are Montana residents.”
Many of the fatal crashes have been avoidable, and Nelson urges people to use good judgment and to wear a seatbelt. “Seatbelts. They are the cheapest life insurance policy you’ll ever have, just click it and your chances of your survival are drastically increased.”
Here are the four deadly crashes that happened between Friday, October 8, and Sunday, October 10:
- FERGUS COUNTY: A woman died in a two-vehicle crash just west of Lewistown in Fergus County at about 9:45 p.m. on Friday, October 8. The woman was reportedly driving a Buick LaCrosse, and the other vehicle, driven b a 22-year old man, was a Dodge Ram pickup truck. The MHP says that the woman made a left turn from a parking lot on to US Highway 87. The pickup truck struck the Buick on the driver's side; the Buick then caught fire and burned. The woman died at the scene; the MHP does not yet know if the woman died from the impact or the fire. Her identity has not yet been released. The driver of the pickup truck was not seriously injured. According to the MHP, speed and impaired driving were not factors in the crash; the report does not indicate whether either driver was wearing a seatbelt.
- GLACIER COUNTY: A man died Saturday, October 9, in a one-vehicle crash in Browning. The Montana Highway Patrol reported that the man was heading north on 2nd Street Northwest at 4:30 a.m. He drove through the intersection at N. Boundary Street, went off the road, and through a fence. The 57-year old man from Browning died at the scene; he was the only occupant of the vehicle. According to the MHP, the man was not wearing a seatbelt. The MHP report indicates that speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash. The name of the man has not been released.
- PONDERA COUNTY: Two people died in a crash northwest of Valier on Sunday, October 10. According to the Montana Highway Patrol, it happened at about 11 a.m. on Highway 358 near mile marker 9. Three people were heading south in a 2012 Chevy when the driver failed to negotiate a curve in the road. The vehicle went off the road, and the driver over-corrected. The vehicle then began rolling and hit a barbed-wire fence. All three occupants of the vehicle - two men, ages 20 and 22, and a woman age 26 - were ejected, and the vehicle caught on fire. The MHP says that two people died in the crash, and one person was injured. The MHP says that alcohol is suspected as a factor in the crash. The names of the two people who died have not yet been released.
- CHOUTEAU COUNTY: One person died and another was injured in a crash east of Geraldine on Sunday, October 10. According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the 2004 Ford pickup truck was heading west at about 2:10 a.m. on Panton Road several miles east of Geraldine and drifted on to the right shoulder. The driver corrected to the left, and then over-corrected to the right. The vehicle rotated, went off the road, and rolled on to its roof. A 25-year old man from Geraldine died at the scene; the other person - a 28-year old man from Geraldine - was taken via ambulance to Fort Benton, and then flown via Mercy Flight to a hospital in Great Falls. His current condition has not been released. According to the Montana Highway Patrol, alcohol is suspected as a factor in the crash, and neither man was wearing a seatbelt. The name of the man who died has not been released at this point.