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Man faces vehicular homicide in hitchhiker death

A man from South Dakota is facing serious criminal charges in connection with a car accident that killed a hitchhiker who was a passenger in his vehicle. The man, age 65, was reportedly not in police custody when the charges were filed, and so a warrant for his arrest was issued.

Reports indicate that the man was driving along Baxter Lane when he ran a stop sign. His vehicle, a Dodge Neon, was struck by a pickup truck on the passenger's side. The impact killed the man's 49-year-old female passenger, according to police officers. Montana Highway troopers who appeared on the scene shortly after the crash reported that both the vehicle and the driver smelled like beer. They also noticed a large, empty beer can in the man's car.

The driver of the vehicle was critically wounded in the crash, and he was hospitalized in a medically induced coma for some time after the wreck. Once he arrived at the hospital, physicians confirmed that the man's blood alcohol content was about 0.18, which is more than double the legal limit for driving.

The man was reportedly driving to Glacier National Park, and he also planned on visiting friends in Big Sky, according to his statements.

The man has admitted to investigators that he was drinking and taking prescription medication, including narcotic pain-relievers, at the time of the crash. He said he probably drank to the point of blackout because he does not remember much about the accident. If the man is convicted of the vehicular homicide charges, he could serve 30 years in prison and pay a $50,000 fine.

In this case, the woman's family may consider filing a civil suit against the man in addition to the criminal charges levied by local law enforcement. The man's admission of guilt to police officers could feature prominently in the civil decision to award compensatory and punitive damages.

Source: The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Vehicular homicide charges filed in Love Lane crash," Whitney Bermes, Aug. 30, 2012

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