Drug charges filed in wake of fatal crash

Drug charges filed in wake of fatal crash

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Gazette Staff

A Washington state man who survived a car accident that killed three people Sunday near St. Xavier was arrested Monday on felony drug charges, officials said.

Montana Highway Patrol Officer Eric Winburn said Johnny Manuel Cervantes, 29, was booked into the Big Horn County jail after investigators found cocaine at the scene of the accident on Highway 313. The accident occurred at about 5:15 p.m. Sunday.

A second survivor, Estrebeto Escamilla, 20, was being treated at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. He was listed in stable condition Monday. Cervantes also was treated at St. Vincent Healthcare and was taken into custody Monday after he was released from the hospital.

Escamilla is also from Washington state, but Winburn said an exact address for the men was unclear.

Killed in the accident were Fairalee Williamson, 27, of Crow Agency; Carl Venne Jr., 28, of Hardin; and Charmion Stewart, 20, of Lame Deer.

Winburn said the accident remains under investigation, but authorities believe Venne was driving the 1997 Chevrolet Lumina at a high speed when he lost control after passing another vehicle. The Lumina, which authorities estimate was traveling at more than 106 mph, went off the right shoulder and rolled three times, Winburn said.

Venne, Williamson and Stewart were thrown from the car and died at the scene.

Authorities found "quite a bit" of cocaine at the scene of the accident, Winburn said. An attempt to hide the drugs was made before officials arrived, he said.

Cervantes also has been charged with misdemeanors for possessing fake identification and obstruction for giving a false name, Winburn said.

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