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Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Man dies after crashing in water A 48-year-old Billings man died Monday night when his truck landed upside down in the Big Ditch near Laurel.

Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Keith Edgell said the man was driving the full-sized pickup north on Yard Office Road when he drifted off the right edge of the road. The truck rode the edge of the roadway as the man apparently tried to drive back up on the road, Edgell said. The truck hit a bridge over the Big Ditch and rolled, landing upside down in the ditch.

Edgell said the man was pinned under the truck. Laurel firefighters removed the man from the wreck, wading in ditch water that was waist- to chest-deep.

Emergency medical personnel from Laurel Ambulance Service, American Medical Response and HELP Flight worked to revive the man for about 45 minutes, Edgell said, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim's identity was not released pending notification of relatives.

The wreck was reported shortly after 8 p.m. and Yard Office Road remained blocked for more than two hours.

Speed did not appear to be a factor in the wreck, Edgell said, but early in the investigation it was not known if alcohol was involved. The man was not wearing a seatbelt.

The death is the 60th on Montana highways this year, compared to 55 a year ago, according to the Associated Press.

Man charged with assault A Billings man accused of punching two police officers last week could face four to 100 years in prison.

Lester Runs Above is charged with two counts of assault on a peace officer. The felonies each carry two years to 10 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine. Deputy County Attorney Christopher Morris said Runs Above "beat the officers" on May 2. Runs Above was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 bond.

He is to appear Wednesday in District Court.

Runs Above also appeared Monday in Municipal Court where he pleaded not guilty to two warrants for partner/family member assault and to eight traffic tickets. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing June 9 in Municipal Court.

Man charged in hay fire A Billings man accused of using a lighter to start about 750 tons of hay on fire last summer was charged with arson Monday.

Nathan Scribner, 22, of 1117 12th St. W., was charged in connection with a June 22, 2002, fire near Grand Avenue and 64th Street West that burned hay worth more than $65,000.

Scribner posted $50,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear Wednesday in District Court.

According to court documents, a Crimestoppers tip named Scribner as a possible suspect in the fire. Sheriff's detectives received the information on July 1, 2002, they were not able to meet with Scribner until February. After four people with Scribner that night gave differing stories of the event, eventually detectives learned that Scribner "mentioned the idea of burning hay bales," the affidavit states.

A witness said Scribner tried to ignite the bales using a lighter then the group left, it states. Two other people with the group used fireworks to attempt to light the bale where Scribner is accused of using the lighter, it states.

According to the affidavit, Scribner called a friend and tried to borrow a video camera to record the fire and the group went to another friend's house to brag about starting the blaze.

The day after the fire, owner John Mahan told The Gazette the fire, which burned about 1,100 bales, was "plumb deliberate."