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drivers tried to avoid collision moments before impact

A 57-year-old Missoula man was killed when the car he was a passenger in collided head-on with another vehicle on Highway 10 just west of Missoula International Airport.

The victim was in the front seat of a westbound 1997 Chevrolet Lumina being driven by his 53-year-old girlfriend, according to Officer Rich Hader of the Montana Highway Patrol.

The woman was listed in critical condition and had undergone surgery at St. Patrick Hospital. She was expected to be transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

A 44-year-old Missoula woman, who was eastbound in a 1978 Ford Econoline van, was reported in stable condition at the hospital.

The Highway Patrol declined to release the names of those involved in the wreck.

Three separate Missoula Emergency Services ambulances transported the victims to St. Pat's. The male passenger died an hour after the accident, which occurred about 12:10 p.m.

The driver of the Lumina apparently crossed the centerline and struck the van, according to Hader. The Lumina left no skid marks, he said, although the two drivers tried to avoid a collision moments before impact.

The three occupants were wearing seat belts and the air bags in the Chevrolet deployed, Hader said. Speed was not a factor in the wreck.

Traffic was detoured around the accident scene on the frontage road in front of the airport's Public Safety Building.

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