HELENA -- A 19-year-old Helena Bighorns hockey player, Wyatt Winfield, died Friday after a motor vehicle accident that happened shortly after midnight Friday morning.
A second person in the vehicle, an 18-year-old friend of the driver, sustained non-life threatening injuries, according to Lewis and Clark Coroner Mickey Nelson.
According to Sheriff Leo Dutton, emergency dispatchers received a 9-1-1 call about 12:40 a.m. Friday from the driver of a vehicle that was following the 1997 silver Dodge truck. The trucked rolled over near mile marker 13 on Lincoln Road, which is between the Canyon Creek store and the Marysville turnoff.
Dutton said when his deputies and the Montana Highway Patrol arrived, they found Winfield in extremely critical condition with “multiple systems trauma.”
“He was transported by ambulance to St. Peter’s Hospital, and died a little after 4 a.m.,” Dutton said.
He added that alcohol isn’t considered a factor at this point; instead, he said MHP is investigating whether some type of mechanical problem with the truck caused the accident.
Bighorns team president Mike Butters noted that the team has suffered a great tragedy with Winfield’s death.
“Our deepest sympathies go to Wyatt’s family and friends,” said Butters. “Wyatt has been a huge part of our family here and we are grieving as a team. I have seen his growth as a player and person and his passing affects us all deeply.”
Winfield, a Helena High grad, was in his fourth season with the Bighorns. He played his entire minor hockey season here and was one of one of only three Helena players on the Bighorns roster.
Buttters said Winfield’s passion for the game and commitment to his team was immense.
He added that the Bighorns’ players met Friday morning and decided they would go ahead with Friday night’s home playoff game against Missoula to honor Winfield.
Bighorns team captain Ben Henne offered his deepest sympathies to Winfield’s family on behalf of the team.
“We are dedicating tonight’s game and the rest of this season to the memory of Wyatt,” Henne said. “He was one of the best teammates I have ever played with.”
The Bighorns organization encourages all who knew Winfield to attend Friday's game to show their support for his family and teammates. The Bighorns hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series against Missoula. A win Friday night would put the Bighorns in the league finals for a ninth straight season.
“The players are very fragile and shaken right now,” Butters said. “They need the support of this community right now as they and the rest of the organization are devastated by our loss.”