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School board member charged with DUI in Sept. deaths

A prominent member of the Thompson Falls School Board is facing four felonies in connection with a reported incident of drunk driving. The man is being charged with two counts of vehicular homicide in relation to a DUI car accident that reportedly killed a 23-year-old passenger and the vehicle's 32-year-old driver.

The accident occurred on Sept. 8, when the school board member reportedly crossed the center lane in his Toyota pickup, slamming head-on into a Saturn sedan carrying the victims. The 23-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene, and her 32-year-old fiancé was declared dead at a hospital shortly after his arrival.

In addition, two young children were involved in the collision; the man's 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter also sustained serious injuries in the crash. Both suffered broken legs, though they were properly restrained in the backseat of the vehicle. Those injuries prompted a charge of criminal endangerment against the alleged drunk driver.

The man accused of DUI had a blood-alcohol content of 0.245, which is more than three times the legal limit in the state of Montana. The 46-year-old suspect has repeatedly denied drinking before the crash, telling officers instead that he had only consumed several non-alcoholic beers before getting behind the wheel that night. Still, the man's blood was drawn and tested the morning after the crash and that BAC result came to 0.11 percent, which is still higher than the legal limit.

Several witnesses have said they saw the suspect falling asleep at the bar shortly before getting in his vehicle. Other bystanders said they witnessed the bartender telling the man that he could not have any more to drink.

The victims' children could sue the drunk driver for continued medical costs and other claims that would allow them to maintain some standard of living. The young children are ostensibly left without a source of income, so a civil ruling in their favor would provide for their medical costs and future educational needs, among other necessities.

Source: The Billings Gazette, "Thompson Falls school board member charged with vehicular homicide while drunk," Vince Devlin, Dec. 4, 2012.

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