A 14-year-old Ronan girl died early Sunday in a one-car rollover northeast of Ronan, a crash that hospitalized four other youths with non-life threatening injuries.
The fatality capped one of the deadliest five-day stretches in memory on Montana highways.
In a year that remains on pace for the lowest fatality rate since the late 1940s, 12 people lost their lives in eight crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday, beginning Wednesday morning.
Montana Highway Patrol reported the Lake County crash occurred at 2:15 a.m. and involved five people between the ages of 11 and 16. The vehicle was northbound on North Foothills Drive, just past its intersection with North Crow Road. The intersection is roughly three miles northeast of Ronan and 2½ miles southeast of Pablo.
The driver lost control, causing the vehicle to enter a ditch and roll several times. The 14-year-old girl, who was a passenger, was ejected and declared dead on the scene.
Alcohol and speed are suspected factors. An MHP spokeswoman in Helena said the deceased victim wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. It’s unknown if the four others were.
Three eastern Montana crashes in recent days resulted in multiple deaths.
All four members of an Air Force family from North Dakota were killed east of Billings on Thursday en route to Thanksgiving dinner in Ekalaka. Their Toyota 4Runner was found nose down in Pryor Creek near Huntley on Interstate 94 a day later.
Anthony and Chelsi Dean and their daughters, aged 5 and 1, were traveling from their former home in Caldwell, Idaho. They were towing another vehicle on a trailer when the 4Runner veered to the left and into the interstate median. After continuing in the median for a distance, the Toyota went airborne off an embankment between bridge decks. It struck a concrete bridge support, then slid down the pillar and came to rest in the creek.
The crash occurred around 7 a.m. Thursday and the family was listed as missing that day when they did not show up in Ekalaka. The wreck was not discovered until Friday, reportedly because of the surrounding shrubs and depth of the ravine. MHP was notified shortly before 8 p.m. Friday and arrived on the scene minutes later.
The carnage started Wednesday at around 5 a.m. when two people were killed east of Wolf Point after a freight train struck their pickup, which was stuck on the BNSF tracks. According to MHP, the collision occurred in a field about one-half mile west of Montana Highway 13.
On Friday morning, a 72-year-old man from Nashua and a 71-year-old woman from North Glasgow died when their sedan was struck when it made a U-turn in front of a pickup on U.S. Highway 2 east of Glasgow.
Other fatal crashes in the deadly stretch took the lives of a woman near Whitehall on Wednesday morning, a 47-year-old Poplar man near Circle on Thursday, and a male pedestrian and a male bicyclist who were struck and killed by vehicles in separate incidents Saturday night on the streets of Billings.
The 12 fatalities raised Montana’s 2018 highway toll to 161, compared to 173 on Nov. 26 a year ago. The 2017 year-end total of 186 deaths was the fewest since 1989.
Nine of the 12 deaths fell on the official holiday weekend that began on Thursday. That was still nearly twice the number for any major holiday period since at least 2010. Five people lost their lives over Independence Day holidays in both 2015 and 2017.