COLUMBUS - A 22-year-old Billings woman rescued three people from a car that skidded into an irrigation ditch, as a cloudburst caused a series of accidents on Interstate 90 Saturday afternoon, the Montana Highway Patrol reported.
Just after 4 p.m., heavy rain mixed with pea-sized hail pounded Interstate 90 8.5 miles west of Columbus, a Highway Patrol spokesman said.
"The rain came down so hard it didnÃ t have time to run off the interstate," the spokesman said.
Accidents occurred on both sides of the interstate, less than two-tenths of a mile apart, over a five-minute period, the patrol said.
In the first accident, a woman trying to pass two semi-trailers hydroplaned and hit a semi with the right side of her car.
At the same time, an eastbound car swerved out of control and hit a car in the driver's door. Both vehicles pulled over to the side of the interstate to exchange insurance information. Neither of the vehicles was badly damaged, the MHP said.
A third eastbound vehicle slid off the interstate between the other two vehicles and skidded through a fence, across the frontage road and into an irrigation ditch full of water.
Holly Ann Cameron, who was involved in the first accident in the eastbound lane, ran after the vehicle and pulled three people from it - a grandmother who was driving, her daughter and a baby. The vehicle was submerged almost up to the door handles. The grandmother complained of back pain and was taken by ground ambulance to the Columbus Hospital, MHP said.
Seconds later, a Dodge Durango in the westbound lane swerved out of control, crossed the median, rolled over and ejected a woman in the back seat. She was wearing a seat belt.
The woman was airlifted to a Billings hospital. The patrol said they did not believe her injuries were life-threatening. The driver and another passenger in the Durango were taken by ambulance to the Columbus Hospital.
The patrol said some of the people involved in accidents were emergency medical technicians who had been attending a trauma care workshop. They were instrumental in helping with the victims, the patrol said.
Three other vehicles slid off the interstate during the same stretch of time, but the vehicles were not damaged and there were no injuries.