Update: Accident Victim Identified

By Beacon Staff

A man who died Thursday evening when his van veered into oncoming traffic on Montana Highway 82 and sideswiped a tractor-trailer hauling apples has been identified as Trenton Thornton, 24. The driver of the tractor-trailer was taken to Kalispell Regional Medical Center with minor injuries.

The accident is under investigation by the Montana Highway Patrol.

In total, four vehicles were involved in the accident, according to Montana Highway Patrol trooper Dustin LeRette, with the van, tractor-trailer and a SUV bearing the brunt of the damage, while a Ford Taurus sustained minor damage. The female driving the SUV and her two children were in good condition but were taken to KRMC in a passenger car for precautionary reasons. The two occupants of the Ford Taurus were unhurt.

The accident caused a fire that spread quickly in the swirling winds. The fire started with the tractor-trailer on the north side of the highway and then jumped the road and spread southward before the Somers Fire Department put it out. The Montana Highway Patrol responded to the scene shortly after 4 p.m.

According to LeRette, the white Chevy van was heading westbound on Highway 82 when it veered into the eastbound lane for unknown reasons and struck the tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer then skidded into westbound traffic, hitting the SUV. The Taurus arrived at the point of contact afterward and experienced very little damage. The top of the SUV was smashed while the tractor-trailer was severely damaged.

Montana Highway Patrol trooper Lacie Alby photographs the accident scene on Montana Highway 82. – Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon