A tractor-trailer that slowed as it traveled through a cloud of smoke billowing from a controlled burn off the highway led to a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 15 near Conrad Monday afternoon, killing two young women from Columbia Falls in a trailing vehicle.
According to the Montana Highway Patrol (MHP), four vehicles were involved in the crash although the only two fatalities were the unidentified 17- and 20-year-olds from Columbia Falls traveling in a Pontiac Grand Prix. Their car was the third vehicle in the pile-up and struck a Freightliner truck that itself had already rear-ended the first tractor-trailer. The final vehicle, a Mazda CX-5, then crashed into the Grand Prix. Both occupants of the Grand Prix were pronounced dead at the scene. It is unclear which victim was driving and whether or not either were wearing seat belts.
The accident began when the first truck, driven by a 57-year-old man from Calgary, Alberta, drove through a “smoke cloud” that “obstructed the road” and slowed to 25 miles per hour. The crash occurred at approximately 1:15 p.m. in the southbound lanes of I-15 at mile marker 344, about five miles north of Conrad.
Four other people were injured in the crash, including the 51-year-old driver of the second semi and all three occupants of the CX-5, each from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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