Don’t Forget: Buckle Up

By Beacon Staff

The past few weeks have been deadly ones on Flathead Valley highways.

On Sept. 27, two Bigfork-area men, Matthew Emslie, 27, and Sean Purcell, 26, died when their vehicle rolled over on Montana 209 near Ferndale. Neither was wearing a seat belt.

A four-vehicle accident on Montana Highway 82 last Thursday, killed one man, Trenton Thorton, 24, when his van swerved into oncoming traffic and sideswiped a tractor-trailer hauling apples. Thornton was not wearing his seat belt, but the occupants of the other cars – who all survived with minor injuries – were, according to officials.

And this past Friday, a Bigfork-area woman died in a rollover accident on Montana 209 about one mile east of Bigfork. Lyla Page, 29, swerved and lost control of her 2002 Ford Explorer, the car rolled several times, and Page, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle.

The crashes, of course, resonate through the community on a personal level. For many, these crash victims are not a highway statistic, but a friend, brother, son, mother or sister, and the accidents have changed their lives.

But the crashes, I think, should act as an important reminder for all of us: Buckle up. It’s a maxim we’ve all heard since we were small children, but one that, for whatever reason, many of us often forget or ignore. If you need a visual reminder, check out the picture at the bottom of this page from Thursday’s four-vehicle crash: The SUV and apple truck are destroyed, but their occupants, all of whom were wearing seat belts, escaped with minor injuries.

I think there’s often a perception of journalists as gleeful “ambulance-chasers,” individuals who enjoy the adrenaline rush of reporting spot news. In truth, I think most of us struggle with the part of our jobs that takes us to highway accidents where coroners are checking bodies or to an interview with the deceased’s family or the front lines of other tragic events. And, while memories of writing stories about county meetings may quickly fade, these accidents leave indelible marks on a reporter’s memory.

So, remember to buckle up; for me, so that the first time we meet on the job, you’re able to speak for yourself, but most of all for yourself.