A Stillwater County Sheriff's Office deputy responding to an interstate crash Wednesday morning was left with minor injuries when a pickup hit his parked patrol vehicle.
The incident is the most recent in a string of crashes in which Montana law enforcement responding to traffic incidents have been hit by other vehicles driving in the area. The Helena Independent Record reported that five Montana Highway Patrol vehicles were hit in five separate crashes in December 2017.
At around 9 a.m. the 2014 Ford F-150 driven by the deputy was parked on the right lane shoulder atop a hill near I-90 mile marker 411 to control traffic. Below, a fire truck and ambulance were responding to a crash between a tanker semi and a pickup.
Approaching the deputy's car, an eastbound pickup tried to move into the right lane to get around a semi. The driver said he lost control before he hit the deputy's truck while the deputy was inside it, according to MHP Trooper Shane Warehime. "He was almost sideways when he hit the deputy's vehicle," Warehime said.
After hitting the deputy's car, the pickup then spun out in front of the semi and was hit again, with both impacts on its passenger side, before coming to a stop in the median. The driver of the pickup declined medical treatment afterward, Warehime said. With snow falling on the icy road, Warehime said the pickup driver was going too fast to keep control.
Wednesday's collision was the first "in awhile," for the Stillwater County Sheriff's Office, according to public information officer Tammie Mullikin. The deputy was given the rest of the day off and might have some soreness but was otherwise deemed OK after a hospital checkup, Mullikin said.
The collision won't make the deputy's job any easier, Mullikin said. With his 2014 Ford F-150 "definitely not functional," the deputy will be driving a Crown Victoria for the remainder of the winter, a rear-wheel drive vehicle that doesn't handle nearly as well on often icy and snowy county roads.
A photo provided by the sheriff's office doesn't really do justice to the damage the deputy's vehicle sustained, Mullikin said. The vehicle might be totaled and it looked like the truck's frame was bent in the crash, Warehime said. Between the original crash and the second crash, traffic wasn't completely clear in the area for roughly two hours.
The driver of the pickup was cited for a basic rule violation and for failure to slow and change lanes for a stationary emergency vehicle.
"People need to slow down and change lanes and give all of us room to work — snowplows, wreckers, firetrucks, EMS. We're out there trying to help people, and we don't want to get injured," Warehime said. "We want to go home to our families as well."