Minnesota Man to Plead Guilty to Vehicular Homicide for Fatal July 2019 Accident

Mason David Drake reached a plea agreement with prosecutors; was scheduled to stand trial in mid-August

By Andy Viano

The driver of a truck that caused a head-on crash that killed two women on July 4, 2019 has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide, according to documents filed in Flathead County District Court on Monday.

Mason David Drake, 24, will plead guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide while under the influence for his role in the late-night crash that killed Katie and Alice Barten, both of the Kalispell area. Per the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a 40-year prison sentence for Drake, with 20 of those years suspended. Drake was facing a maximum sentence of 60 years behind bars.

According to court records, Drake’s truck crossed the centerline on Montana Highway 35 east of Kalispell and slammed head-on into a smaller pickup just before midnight. The force of the accident killed the Bartens and sent Drake to the hospital for more than a week after he was extricated from his vehicle. Drake, who resides in Lanesboro, Minnesota, was working as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service during the summer of 2019.

A Montana Highway Patrol trooper investigating the accident recorded Drake’s blood-alcohol level at .136%, well above the legal limit. Two witnesses also reported seeing Drake’s truck swerving just before the fatal wreck. Drake returned to his home in Minnesota after the accident before being charged in Flathead County in October.

Drake was scheduled to stand trial beginning Aug. 17 in front of Lincoln County Judge Matt Cuffe, who was presiding over the case in Flathead County. Drake’s sentencing has not been scheduled as of July 27.

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