By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The father of one of two youths who died as a result of a vehicle rollover near Havre late Saturday hopes the tragedy makes other young people think more about taking risks like drinking and driving, driving too fast, and not wearing seat belts.
"I hope it makes them think twice," Daryl "Dusty" Schwan said.
One of the victims, Travis Allen Turner, 20, was pronounced dead after the accident 4 miles south of Havre.
Schwan's 16-year-old daughter, Whitney Marie Schwan, was brain dead when she arrived at Benefis Healthcare in Great Falls on Sunday morning. She was kept on life support until organs could be removed for donation, Dusty Schwan said. She was prounced dead on Monday afternoon.
A third person in the car, 18-year-old Anthony Bonavita, suffered a dislocated shoulder and expected to be released from Northern Montana Hospital today.
Bonavita said he thinks the only reason he survived the crash was because he was wearing a seat belt, and believes that Turner and Schwan, who were both ejected in the rollover, would have survived if they had worn theirs.
The tragedy has had a profound impact on others who knew both victims.
Brandon Morse, 18, and Justin Cech, 19, spent Sunday and Monday in Great Falls with the Schwan family. Morse said he had dated Whitney Schwan off and on for about a year.
"It was a highly emotional time. Everybody was just trying to help each other out," Cech said today.
"It almost makes you realize not to take life for granted," Morse said.
The two said they didn't used to wear seat belts.
"Never, till now," Morse said. "Every time I get in a vehicle," he said.
"It makes you want to wear your seat belt," Cech said. "It pops up in your head every time you get in the vehicle."
The death of their friends will also affect other behavior, they said.
"It will slow a lot of us down from our usual driving," Morse said.
"The same about drinking," Cech said, adding that most weekends the people they know seem to think of going drinking before they think of anything else.
Morse said he and Cech sat in a hotel room in Great Falls and talked about that.
"We came down to one conclusion," he said. "No more drinking and driving."
The Montana Highway Patrol said speed and alcohol were factors in the crash.
Turner, Bonavita and Schwan were traveling north shortly before midnight Saturday on Montana Highway 234 when the crash occurred, the Highway Patrol said. The Dodge Stratus Turner was driving drifted off the highway on a left-hand curve. Turner overcorrected and the car crossed the highway into the borrow pit on the west side of the road, where the car rolled, the Highway Patrol report said.
Schwan said he suspects speeding and failing to use seat belts were larger factors in the crash than alcohol use.
While there may have been some drinking, Schwan said, he doubts it was a large amount. The three were just going out to visit people in the park, he said.
"We knew she was going out there," he said.
He thinks the three left Havre about 10 p.m. Their last stop was at the Lions Campground before they headed back to Havre, probably trying to meet Whitney's 12:30 a.m. curfew, he added.
He and his wife, Patti Schwan, have tried to encourage their children to wear seat belts. Whitney not having hers on Saturday was unusual, he said.
"She usually did," Schwan said.
Bonavita said he normally didn't wear a seat belt and isn't sure why he decided to put one on right after they got back into the car to head to Havre Saturday night.
"I just felt the urge," he said.
Bonavita said he "definitely" will wear a seat belt from now on.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80 percent of the people age 16 to 20 killed in car crashes in Montana in 2002 were not wearing seat belts.
Morse said he wishes Whitney and Travis could have learned the lesson about seat belts he now understands.
"It saved Anthony's life," he said. "I only wish the other two could have done the same."