Looking at his watch, Bill Howe said, “In two hours it will be one week since it happened.” Nodding towards the highway he said, “You can still see the tire tracks on the road out there.” We were standing just a few yards from the site where his sister-in-law Christine Howe died last Wednesday while trying to turn left off of four-lane Highway 93 to enter her driveway just north of Florence.
Howe was carrying two white crosses and participating in a community vigil, sparked by his sister-in-law’s death, but in honor and remembrance of all the many crash victims along this stretch of Highway 93 between Lolo and Florence.
There is no turning lane on the four-lane highway where Howe was trying to turn left, across the southbound lanes, to enter her shared driveway last week.
According to reports from the State Highway Patrol, when Howe slowed to make a left turn, her vehicle was rear-ended by a GMC Yukon driven by a 19-year-old Hamilton man. The collision pushed both vehicles into the southbound lane where they were each hit by separate southbound vehicles. Howe died at the scene. Two drivers were taken to St. Patrick’s Hospital for treatment and the third went to Community Medical. All but Howe survived the crash. According to investigators, neither alcohol, drugs or excessive speed were factors in the accident.
“When this happened we thought that it was just a terrible tragedy for our family,” said Bill Howe, standing on the roadside. “But it turns out, I guess, that this kind of thing has happened a lot.”
“There are a lot of things that could be done to make things safer,” said Howe. “They could lower the speed limit, they could put in a turning lane, or a median, but they need to do something. Anything.”
A friend of Christine’s, Stephanie Puckett, was inspired to help start a grassroots movement to address the issue. The group has a Facebook page called “Advocates for Change to Montana Highway 93 S” and plans to begin meeting with state and local officials to discuss potential changes to the highway.
The white crosses used in Friday’s vigil had a simple message painted on them to the Governor and to the Department of Transportation: 93 HELP.
Michael Howell can be contacted at: [email protected] or 406-239-4838.