Man arrested for deadly April 2013 crash in Lockwood

2014-04-07T10:16:00Z 2014-04-08T13:45:04Z Man arrested for deadly April 2013 crash in LockwoodBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A Billings man who authorities say was the driver in a deadly crash in Lockwood a year ago now faces a negligent homicide charge in relation to the fiery rollover wreck.

After a nearly yearlong investigation, the Montana Highway Patrol arrested Damian Scott Strever, 18, on Friday. 

He remains in the county jail and is scheduled to go before a District Court judge on Tuesday on felony counts of negligent homicide and negligent vehicular assault.

The crash happened April 21, 2013, when a Buick Regal, which charging documents say Strever was driving, rolled and caught fire near the intersection of North Frontage and Exxonmobil roads.

A passenger, 26-year-old Nina M. Klein of Billings, died in the crash. The Yellowstone County Coroner's Office said she died of blunt-force trauma.

Strever and a 3-year-old girl who was a passenger were injured in the crash.

Emergency personnel who responded to the crash found Strever hanging from the window of the car, while the girl was pinned between Klein and the car's roof. An ambulance took the girl to a Billings hospital to be treated for serious injuries.

Witnesses told investigators that they watched the Buick speed eastbound on North Frontage Road before it left the roadway, struck a ditch and launched into the air before it landed on its roof and caught fire.

Later, investigators received a search warrant for the Buick and managed to retrieve its data recorder, which indicated that the Buick was traveling at 103 mph when it crashed, according to court documents, which is nearly double the posted speed limit of 55 mph, according to the affidavit.

The court documents say investigators determined that the Buick's brakes were not applied before it struck an approach, flew into the air and traveled another 160 feet before hitting the Exxonmobil Road approach, which is where it overturned and caught fire.

Another ambulance took Strever to Billings Clinic, where he told an MHP trooper that he had been driving the Buick when it crashed, charging documents state.

The trooper took a sample of Strever's blood, which was sent to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula for analysis. Testing results indicated that Strever had methamphetamine in his system, according to the affidavit.

Staff at the hospital also gave the trooper two pipes they found in Strever's clothing, the court documents state. Investigators said the pipes are commonly used to take drugs.

MHP troopers arrested Strever at a Billings saloon on Friday.

A warrant for his arrest in relation to the crash had already been issued and, after arresting him, officers found a hypodermic needle and spoon — which charging documents say investigators believe were used to take drugs — in Strever's pockets.

Strever pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia on Monday during a video appearance before Justice of the Peace David A. Carter, who set bond at $585.

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

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