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HELENA - The Lewis and Clark County sheriff has asked the department's chaplains to be available at the site of a weekend crash that killed five Helena-area teens.

Sheriff Leo Dutton said "a lot of our kids are going out there and standing there," and he wanted to have someone for them to talk to.

The five teens were heading south in an extended-cab pickup truck east of East Helena at about 1 a.m. Sunday when the driver failed to negotiate a curve. The pickup slammed into a dirt hill.

Witnesses said they heard the vehicle accelerate northbound and then turn around and come back at high speed, Dutton said Monday. The crash occurred in an area where the road has a substantial rise and then a fall, which Dutton termed a "thrill hill."

Coroner Mickey Nelson identified the victims as Andre D. Hartwig, 18, of East Helena; Beau A. Miller-Lopane, 18, of East Helena; Eric A. Prudhomme, 18, and his sister, Danielle R. Prudhomme, 15, of Helena; and Chanda M. Scarber, 18, of Helena. Hartwig was driving.

Nelson described the crash as an "extreme high-impact accident."

The three boys were in the front seat of the vehicle and the girls were in the extended cab, said Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jaramy Rice. No one was ejected from the truck, but no one was wearing seat belts, he said.

All five young people suffered massive body and head trauma and died at the scene, Rice said.

Rice said speed was a factor, alcohol was a probable factor and drug paraphernalia was found in the truck.

"Maybe this will have an impact with kids when they drive," Dutton said, adding that he's glad teens are going to see the crash site. "You pray for things that are not this significant as a reminder.

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"The sheriff's office extends their sympathy to the families of this tragedy," Dutton said.

The crash site is about 10 feet from two crosses that mark where two other teens were killed in an April 1999 crash.

"It's almost a carbon copy," Nelson said.

 

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