A 23-year-old man accused of causing a crash on Montana Highway 35 this summer resulting in the death of two local women pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on Nov. 8.
Mason David Drake has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide. If convicted, he could spend upwards of 60 years in prison. Drake is set to stand trial next spring.
Drake lives in Minnesota and was in the Flathead Valley this summer working as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service. According to court records, Drake was driving down Montana Highway 35 east of Kalispell late on the night of July 4 when his vehicle crossed the centerline and crashed head-on into another truck. The collision killed both occupants of the other vehicle, identified in court documents as Katie and Alice Barten of the Kalispell area.
Drake had to be extricated from the wrecked pickup truck. Emergency responders reported an “overwhelming” odor of alcohol when dealing with Drake. A blood sample and test confirmed that Drake had been drinking.
Drake was released from the hospital eight days after the crash and went back to Minnesota. Earlier this fall, Drake was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and he returned to Flathead County to turn himself in. He is currently being held on $500,000 bond.
During a bond hearing held immediately after the arraignment, defense attorney David Mattingley tried to convince Lincoln County District Court Judge Matt Cuffe, who is overseeing the case in Flathead County, that the bail was “excessive.” If the bond was reduced, Drake said he would live in Minnesota with his father and stepmother. Deputy County Attorney John Donovan argued that the bail was appropriate considering the seriousness of the allegations.
“His actions caused the death of two people, so the bail should reflect that,” he said.
At moments during the hearing in Flathead County District Court, Drake could be seen burying his head in his arms on the table and sobbing.
Judge Cuffe is expected to making a ruling on the bail reduction in the near future.