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Woman killed in 2-car crash

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ST. IGNATIUS- St. Ignatius lost a valued community member in a fatal two-vehicle accident on June 17.

Sgt. Terry Rosenbaum of the Montana Highway Patrol said the crash occurred on St. Mary’s Lake Road about a quarter mile west of Hillside.

Around 11 p.m., a Subaru station wagon driven by Carol Johnston drifted into oncoming traffic and collided with a Honda Accord driven by Earnest Sorrel. Sorrel’s 15-year-old son was in the passenger seat.

No one was wearing seatbelts. Alcohol and speed may have been involved.

Sorrel slammed on the brakes and veered into the westbound lane to avoid Johnston, but Johnston overcorrected back into the westbound lane. The cars collided, and Johnston’s Subaru flipped and landed on the driver’s side. She was partially ejected from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sorrel dislocated his right leg and broke his pelvis when his knees hit the dashboard. He was sent to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Spokane, Wash., and was in stable condition as of Friday.

His son was treated for minor injuries at the scene.

The posted speed limit on St. Mary’s Lake Road is 35 miles per hour. From evidence gathered at the scene, police believe Johnston was traveling in excess of 50 mph

“I really truly feel that a seatbelt worn by Carol … I’m not saying she wouldn’t have gotten hurt … but this was a very survivable crash,” Rosenbaum said. “Her odds of surviving this were very high had she been wearing her seatbelt.”

Johnston had an Alaska driver’s license, but Rosenbaum estimates that she had been living in the St. Ignatius area for two to two and a half years.

“From everyone that I’ve talked to, a lot of people thought very highly of Carol. She was a very well-liked person. This is a horrible tragedy,” Rosenbaum said.

The Montana Highway Patrol recently released its annual report on traffic accidents and safety. According to the report, Lake County saw a total of four fatalities in two car accidents last year. This is a significant drop from previous years.

Since speed limits were instituted in Lake County in 2006, deaths due to car accidents have not been above 10 per year. However, 2006 saw 22 fatalities in Lake County alone.

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