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A Columbia Falls woman died and her husband was hospitalized after their car crashed Tuesday afternoon off of Interstate 90 south of Sheridan, Wyo., and nobody found them until the next day.

According to a news release from Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt. Stephen Townsend, Rodney Emmert, 54, was driving a Hyundai Sonata to Colorado Springs, Colo., with his wife, 53-year-old Laureen Emmert.

Rodney Emmert told investigators that his wife unbuckled her seat belt at about 3 p.m. Tuesday to pick up something from the car’s floorboard. When she couldn’t reach it, Rodney Emmert unbuckled his seat belt while Laureen Emmert steered, the release said.

Set at a cruise control speed of about 75 mph, the Hyundai drifted off I-90 about eight miles south of Sheridan and went airborne, crashed into a stand of trees and hit a concrete culvert before landing in deep mud.

Townsend said nobody saw the crash.

When the Emmerts didn’t arrive in Colorado, relatives tried calling them and eventually reached Rodney Emmert, who on Wednesday morning, told them “south of Sheridan, need help, send helicopter” before the phone cut out, Townsend wrote.

About 21 hours after the crash, at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, a construction worker noticed the top of the Emmerts’ car in a deep ravine off the side of the road.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Laureen Emmert was alive after the crash or died sometime after. Rodney Emmert was taken to Sheridan Memorial Hospital in Sheridan, Wyo.

Contact Zach Benoit at zbenoit@billingsgazette.com or 657-1357.

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