Montana authorities are treating a fatal side underride collision between a tractor trailer and a Dodge Caravan as a hit-and-run and remain on the lookout for a commercial truck driver who left the crash scene.
According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the tractor-trailer hauling two-by-four lumber on Interstate 15 southbound near the Great Falls Airport made an illegal left turn in an authorized-vehicle-only median crossing. State troopers reported that the truck driver was attempting to access a weigh station on the northbound side of the interstate.
A Dodge Caravan driven by Marvin Knutson, 72, of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada, on the northbound side struck the trailer as the truck made the turn. Authorities said Mr. Knutson switched to the passing lane but didn’t have time to avoid a collision as the truck straddled the northbound lanes. The side undercarriage crash killed Mr. Knutson.
The Highway Patrol says that after the collision, the tractor-trailer continued across to the entry lane of the weigh station, stopped briefly, and then left the scene, driving north on I-15.
“I don’t know how you can’t feel a hit like that,” State Trooper Fia Seau told the Great Falls Tribune. “Because from the front bumper (of the van), it was pushed all the way to the windshield.”
Authorities said that the trailer should be damaged on the rear right side.
Side underride crashes involving tractor-trailers and smaller passenger vehicles kill about 200 motorists every year in the U.S., according to federal traffic data. Safety advocates for years have called on federal legislators and the commercial trucking industry to require side underride guards that could mitigate many of these crashes, but the proposed measures have been defeated repeatedly by money interests.