Rehberg State Director Returns to Work After Boat Crash

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg’s state director has returned to work full-time after a long recovery from a boat crash that left him in a coma for more than a week.

Dustin Frost was the most severely injured of the five passengers in the boat that was piloted by state Sen. Greg Barkus of Kalispell, now facing felony charges, when it crashed into rocks on the shore of Flathead Lake on Aug. 27.

Frost was in a coma for about 10 days following the late-night crash. He underwent intensive physical therapy, and was cleared to return to work full-time last week.

“This may have been the first doctor’s note I’ve seen that resulted in someone working more hours instead of fewer,” Rehberg said. “Dustin’s critical role on my staff can’t be overstated, and while he’s been cleared to work limited hours for sometime now, we are all grateful to have him back full-time. He’s an incredible employee and an even better person.”

Rehberg, who broke his ankle in the crash and still walks with a noticeable limp, returned to work in Washington D.C. in early September. Kristin Smith, deputy chief of staff to Rehberg, returned to work in September after breaking several bones.

Barkus broke his pelvis and was in a wheelchair, then a walker after the crash. He has pleaded not guilty to felony charges, accusing him of having an alcohol level about twice the legal limit the night of the crash.

Barkus’ attorney rejects the charge, and says his client was not impaired.

Barkus, facing term limits, has said he plans to serve out the remainder of his term, which lasts through December 2010.

Before getting confused about the boat’s location the night of the crash, Barkus was navigating by an electronic GPS and driving high speed without a spotlight, according to court documents. The boat went airborne before crashing fully out of the water.

Rescuers found Frost face down in the water, and reported he was at first conscious before passing out.

Frost, who has some nerve damage on the side of his face, has said he considers the whole incident a tragic accident and is not placing blame on anyone.