A Missoula County sheriff’s deputy was injured Sunday when a motorist hit a patrol car and knocked it into him during a blizzard.
The incident was one of three involving emergency vehicles during the dangerous driving conditions stemming from Sunday's snow storm.
Deputy William Newsom was assisting with the closure of Interstate 90 near the Wye west of Missoula about 2 p.m. when a pickup failed to follow the detour around the freeway exit ramp, according to sheriff's department spokeswoman Paige Pavalone.
“The pickup was going about 35 mph when it struck the patrol car, which struck the deputy,” Pavalone said. “He didn’t have life-threatening injuries, but he was pretty seriously banged on the back of his head and injured his arm.”
Family members said Newsom was dragged about 15 feet under his patrol car in the collision. He was treated and released with a possible concussion. The pickup driver was cited for careless driving.
Sunday’s blizzard deposited lots of ice on area roads and obscured them with whiteout visibility for much of the afternoon and evening. While the Wye incident had multiple sheriff's and Montana Highway Patrol vehicles with flashing lights and flares, Pavalone said drivers were still failing to heed warnings.
“It was one of three incidents we’ve had with emergency vehicles in the last 24 hours,” Pavalone said Monday. “Folks are still going way too fast for conditions. We’ve had more than a dozen slide-offs today.”
Frenchtown Rural Fire Department spokesman Mel Holtz said a tow truck was hit by a motorist Monday morning while the driver was assisting a disabled semi truck on U.S. Highway 93 North.
Another driver nearly hit a Frenchtown fire truck while firefighters were checking for injuries in a damaged vehicle on Interstate 90. The crew scrambled to take cover.
Holtz said national law enforcement statistics find one tow truck driver is killed by a passing motorist every six days, while 23 highway workers are killed every month, one law enforcement officer is killed every month and five firefighters are killed every year.
State law requires motorists to slow down to at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit and move as far away as possible from emergency vehicles at an accident scene.