Glacier Park

Multiple Crashes Snarl Traffic in Glacier Park Wednesday Night

Emergency crews responded to three crashes that blocked traffic for several hours between Apgar and The Loop, including a car that crashed and caught fire near Lake McDonald

By Beacon Staff
Traffic flows through West Glacier on Aug. 8, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Multiple car crashes on Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road snarled traffic for several hours Wednesday night as emergency personnel responded to three separate accidents, including a vehicle that crashed into a tree and caught fire.

Details of the accidents and the traffic congestion along the park’s main thoroughfare came from a press release that park officials distributed Thursday morning. The release states that the accidents occurred “sometime after 3 p.m.,” when the park’s vehicle reservation requirement had expired for the day.

According to the release, two separate accidents occurred in the late afternoon and slowed traffic; one accident occurred at the park’s west entrance and another between the west tunnel and The Loop, the hairpin turn located about 24 miles from West Glacier. The accident near The Loop occurred when a vehicle swerved to miss another vehicle that crossed over the yellow line, causing the first vehicle to hit a rock outcropping, which disabled it. Around the same time, two vehicles collided while merging near the park entrance. No injuries occurred in either accident.

At around 5:40 p.m., park dispatch received reports of a third accident and a vehicle on fire about two miles east of the turnoff to Apgar Campground. According to the news release, a 70-year-old Texas man was driving westbound along Lake McDonald when he fell asleep and drove off the road toward the lake. The car hit a tree and caught fire. The driver and his 65-year-old female passenger were able to escape the car as other motorists stopped to assist, further snarling traffic. The female passenger was transported by ambulance to Logan Health in Whitefish to be assessed for injuries. Her condition is unknown.

The fire left a roughly 400-square-foot burn scar on the side of the road nearest the lake; at the peak of fire’s intensity, flames reached from the base of a copse of trees to its crown. Martin City and Hungry Horse Fire Departments extinguished the fire, which destroyed the car.

The ALERT helicopter landed nearby to assist but did not proceed to the scene of the accident. In addition to the response from National Park Service rangers, emergency crews from the Martin City, Hungry Horse and Coram fire departments responded, as did medical personnel from Three Rivers Ambulance and visitors who stopped to assist until rangers and ambulance crews arrived on the scene.

[email protected]