MISSOULA — Emergency workers who raced to a Wednesday morning crash on Interstate 90 just outside Superior were greeted by the sight of nine people — seven of them children — all thrown from a sport utility vehicle, according to the Montana Highway Patrol.
None wore seatbelts, said Sgt. Roman Zylawy. A 1-year-old boy died and everyone else was injured, he said.
Although the child who died and a 6-month-old boy were in car seats, the seats weren’t fastened into the vehicle, he said.
The crash involved nine members of a Seattle-area family traveling from Washington to Great Falls, Zylawy said. At about 8:10 a.m., their Dodge Durango veered into the median, then cut back onto the highway and rolled, he said.
“It appears that during the early-morning, long-distance drive, somebody either was distracted or fell asleep,” sending the car into the median, he said. The driver apparently overcorrected and “that oversteering caused the vehicle to flip and roll over,” Zylawy said.
The two adults in the car were a 52-year-woman and her son’s girlfriend, who was driving, he said.
Two of the children were the 52-year-old woman’s, Zylawy said. Three more were her son’s and her son’s girlfriend’s children. Another two, including the 1-year-old who died, were her other son’s children, he said.
One person was pinned beneath the car. A tow truck from Superior pulled the car upright and freed that person, he said.
“Everybody responded very quickly and got there fast, including the tow truck driver,” Zylawy said. “Kudos to the Superior Fire Department and ambulance.”
Some of those injured were taken to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, while the rest went to Community Medical Center.
Zylawy’s job involves responding to lots of wrecks, many fatal.
“But I’ve never seen so many people all being ejected,” he said Wednesday. “That’s a first for me.”
The Montana Department of Transportation lists failure to use seatbelts as the leading contributor to motor vehicle fatalities.