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030712 wreck scene

Friends of the four men involved in the crash on Hillview Way gather at the scene where the car went off a curve, rolling several times. The driver, Justin Barber, faces two charges of vehicular homicide while under the influence, and one of negligent vehicular assault, according to Deputy Missoula Attorney Jennifer Clark.

The driver accused in the weekend wreck on Hillview Way that killed two of his friends and badly injured a third is being held in the Missoula County jail on $500,000 bail.

Justin Leshai Barber, 20, faces two charges of vehicular homicide while under the influence, and a third of negligent vehicular assault resulting in serious bodily injury, all felonies.

Jason McDonald, 20, of Frenchtown, and Joshua Gruebele, 18, of Missoula, died as a result of the 3:15 a.m. Sunday crash, according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

The crash occurred when a Cadillac driven by Barber went off Hillview near 23rd Street, according to charging documents filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jennifer Clark.

“The vehicle went off of the roadway, flew into a gully, rolling several times and flipping into the trees,” Clark wrote in an affidavit.

The Montana Highway Patrol estimated the Cadillac was traveling at more than 80 mph downhill before the crash.

Barber told police all four of people in the car were thrown from it, the affidavit said.

McDonald was dead at the scene and Gruebele died Monday at St. Patrick Hospital, according to the sheriff’s office.

McDonald was located about 40-60 feet from the car, while Gruebele and Nicholas Von Platz were found near Barber, the affidavit said.

Von Platz was listed in serious condition Tuesday in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to a hospital spokesman. Clark’s affidavit said he was being treated for a serious injury to his liver.

Barber told police he and his friends were coming from a party when the car crashed, according to the affidavit. Police “could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Barber. Busch cans were located at the scene,” the affidavit said. “Barber admitted that he missed the turn and was driving too fast.”

Barber refused a breath test, so authorities obtained subpoenas for a blood test, Clark said.

He’s scheduled to appear Wednesday in Missoula County Justice Court.

Last Feb. 20, McDonald was a passenger in a car driven by Joshua Jacob-Allen Thielbar when it struck a car driven by Rachel Millhouse, 22, killing her.

That accident seriously injured McDonald, who was flown to Harborview Hospital in Seattle for treatment, according to court documents in Thielbar’s case.

Thielbar, 22, pleaded guilty in July to vehicular homicide while under the influence, and is serving a 20-year sentence, with 10 suspended, in prison.

Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or on Twitter via @CopsAndCourts.

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