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Montana man killed when driver asks him to hold wheel

A fatal car accident that happened near Custer is being blamed on a driver who asked a passenger to steer while he used his cellphone, according to reports. One man was killed in the accident, and two others were injured.

The 21-year-old who died had been riding in the front seat of the vehicle when the 22-year-old driver asked him to take the wheel while he punched numbers into his cellphone. As the vehicle was traveling west of Custer, the car swerved, and the driver grabbed the wheel. Sadly, the man overcorrected, and the driver lost control of the vehicle, causing it to roll over. Two of the occupants were thrown from the car, said authorities.

Neither of the men who were thrown from the vehicle had been wearing their seat belts, according to a report. One was declared dead at the scene from blunt-force trauma, while the other was transported to St. Vincent Healthcare. A third occupant, who was riding in the back seat, was wearing his seat belt, so he remained in the vehicle. That 21-year-old man was transported by helicopter to St. Vincent Healthcare. He remains in critical condition, according to physicians.

Authorities say they are not sure whether alcohol or other intoxicants played a role in the crash, as it is still under investigation. No charges have been filed yet against the driver of the vehicle, though he could face criminal punishment.

It is not yet clear whether the surviving members of the accident will file a civil suit against the driver of the car. This is an unusual case because two people were effectively involved in the accident, so assigning blame in a civil suit could be a challenge as both people in the front seat may be found liable. The backseat passenger is likely to have costly medical expenses associated with his care, and he would certainly benefit from resources that could be allocated from the culpable parties' estates.

Source: Billings Gazette, "Fatal crash happened when driver asked passenger to take the wheel," staff reports, Aug. 8, 2012

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