Coroner names women who drowned in car found in irrigation ditch

2014-04-25T07:39:00Z 2014-04-25T21:11:52Z Coroner names women who drowned in car found in irrigation ditchBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Two Billings women drowned in a car that was found early Friday in a West End irrigation ditch.

The women were identified as Laura Madden, 36, of Billings and Sarah Breitenstein, 36, also of Billings, by Chad Fehr, deputy county coroner. The cause of death was drowning, Fehr said.

The bodies of Madden and Breitenstein were recovered Friday morning from a car submerged in an irrigation ditch near Stewart Park.

Billings Police Lt. Mark Cady said that although police were treating the area with the care of a crime scene, there was nothing suspicious about the wreck.

Billings police and fire departments responded after employees with the Billings Parks and Recreation Department saw a maroon-colored vehicle on its top in the Billings Bench Water Association ditch near the park, Cady said. The car was spotted at about 6:30 a.m.

The car was cold and appeared to have been in the water for awhile, Cady said.

Firefighters used a fire engine to pull out the vehicle just enough to determine whether someone was inside, said Sgt. Shane Winden.

When a body was confirmed, police called for crash investigators. Officers taped off the area to keep spectators away.

Cady said it appears the vehicle entered the ditch from the yard of an apartment complex south of the Central Business Park. The ditch has about three or four feet of water.

The Billings Fire Department Hazardous Materials Response van also arrived and firefighters installed absorbent booms in the ditch to contain oil and fluids from the car.

At least nine police vehicles, two fire department vehicles and an ambulance responded to the initial call.

The investigation is continuing. Cady said it is unknown at this time whether alcohol was a factor.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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