By Charles Denison
A head-on collision between a Ford Explorer Sport Trac SUV and a school bus killed all three involved Wednesday morning on Montana Highway 200, just west of Circle.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Nyle Obergfell, who arrived at the scene a little after 7 a.m., said the SUV was heading eastbound, drifted into the westbound lane for an undetermined reason and hit the bus.
Obergfell said the vehicles slid westbound several feet together, then the SUV caught fire and burned completely. The school bus also caught fire as a result.
According to the Billings Gazette, Don Whitmus of Wolf Point and his wife drove by the accident soon after it happened.
Whitmus told the Gazette the bus was on fire. He saw the driver unconscious behind the wheel and tried to get inside, but the flames were too intense.
The bus driver, 70-year-old Patricia Thorgaard of Circle, died at the scene.
The McCone County Fire Department was notified of the crash, and by the time Obergfell arrived, they had already extinguished the fires.
However, there was nothing they could do to save the victims.
The driver of the SUV has been identified as 42-year-old Timothy Haskey of LaCrosse, Wis.
His passenger has been identified as 27-year-old Stephanie Ellingson, also of LaCrosse.
McCone County Deputy Coroner Paul Skyberg and other investigators are still trying to track down the passenger’s family.
No children were on the school bus at the time of the crash.
Published Sept. 15, 2010