EAST MISSOULA – A 31-year-old Milltown woman was killed Tuesday afternoon in a one-vehicle rollover on Interstate 90 near East Missoula.
The crash occurred around 1:15 p.m. near mile marker 108 on I-90 when the woman’s car, which was traveling eastbound, drifted from the passing lane onto the soft shoulder of the road. The vehicle then rolled several times and landed on its roof in the westbound lanes.
The woman was thrown from the car and died instantly, said Detective Jason Johnson, spokesman for the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.
The woman was not wearing a seat belt. It may have been a distracted driving situation, Johnson said.
The crash closed both westbound lanes of I-90 for about an hour. One eastbound lane was also closed. Heavy holiday traffic was diverted onto the frontage road through Bonner as crews worked to clear the area of debris.
Both sheriff’s deputies and Montana Highway Patrol troopers worked to guide traffic until the interstate reopened about 3 p.m. Tuesday.
A semitrailer driver who witnessed the crash pulled his truck across both westbound lanes immediately after the accident, shielding the body. He then laid a blanket over the woman’s body.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Sean Finley called the semi driver’s actions the “perfect response.”
“He did exactly what any good Samaritan would do,” Finley said.
Finley urged drivers to “slow down, pay attention and wear a seat belt” while driving, especially during the busy Fourth of July holiday. Just one change in a driver’s behavior can have a significant outcome, he said.
MHP will have extra troopers on duty Wednesday, as will the sheriff’s office.
Several extra deputies will be on duty with the sole purpose of enforcing seat belt and drunken driving safety, Johnson said.
“We urge people, always, to not drink and drive – that always leads to problems,” Johnson said. “Don’t take any risks, especially during the holidays, people need to be mindful and watchful and diligent, especially when they’re on the interstate.”
Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.