By Tim Eberly
An elderly diabetic woman getting a ride to Northern Montana Hospital for kidney dialysis early Saturday morning was fatally injured in a head-on crash after the driver of another vehicle fell asleep at the wheel, the Montana Highway Patrol said.
Sarah Parisian, 71, a lifelong Box Elder resident, died Sunday due to accident-related injuries at Benefis East Hospital in Great Falls, a family member said. She had been helicoptered there the previous day.
At 4:30 a.m. Saturday, 26-year-old Melissa Moran fell asleep in her 1992 Chrysler Lebaron while it was southbound on U.S. Highway 87, three miles north of Box Elder, according to the highway patrol.
Moran's vehicle suddenly veered into the northbound lane, into the path of Parisian and Donald Meyers, the driver of the vehicle she was in, Meyers said. Both had their seat belts fastened.
"I blinked my lights, seeing that car coming," said Meyers, 73, who suffered a broken bone in his right leg. "It kept coming straight for me. So I turned hard left, and she still clipped me on the passenger side. If I panicked or anything, I wouldn't be talking to you."
Moran traveled so far into the oncoming lane that the right front side of her vehicle struck the right side of Meyers' 2000 Chevrolet Astro van, the highway patrol said. Neither vehicle overturned and both came to a halt in ditches on the opposite side of their intended lanes. Moran, who had been drinking and did not have her seat belt attached, was ejected from her vehicle, the highway patrol said.
"I suspect that (alcohol was a factor) but I can't say for sure until I get the blood tests back," Montana Highway patrol officer Mark Bosch said of Moran, whom Bosch said was in intensive care at Northern Montana Hospital on Saturday. "I can say that (Moran) had been drinking because I smelled it on her breath."
Hospital spokesperson Kathie Newell said today that Moran had instructed hospital employees not to release any information regarding her health status to the public.
No charges have been filed against Moran and an investigation is continuing, according to the highway patrol.
Though the impact of the two vehicles trapped Parisian in the passenger side until emergency medical technicians arrived, Meyers used his cell phone to call 911 and provide the exact location of the accident, he said. Air bags deployed in Meyers' vehicle.
Parisian suffered a broken leg, a broken rib and internal bleeding, said her daughter, Donna Coltrain. After Parisian underwent medical tests at Northern Montana Hospital, she was transported to Great Falls.
Coltrain, the eldest of Parisian's 11 children 10 of whom are still living said Parisian's death may not have been caused solely by the accident. "She had not been in the best of health, and to have her die in an accident is shocking," said Coltrain, 53, of Parisian, who also had a weak heart. "I think it might have been her health conditions that caused her death."
Three times a week, Meyer drove Parisian to Northern Montana Hospital for dialysis. That morning, Parisian had a 5 a.m. appointment.
"I just picked her up and we were heading down the road," said Meyers, a part-time driver for the Chippewa Cree Tribal Health Board who had been driving Parisian for two years. Unable to take the totaled vehicle, Meyers rode along in the ambulance that transported Parisian, who was conscious, to the hospital. "I held oxygen by her mouth so she could breath. All she said was Help me. Help me.' "
After her children grew up, Parisian went back to obtain a degree in elementary education from Northern Montana College in the late 1980s. A nurse's aide while she raised her children, Parisian became a kindergarten teacher after she completed college.
"She liked to laugh and she enjoyed having people around her," Coltrain said. "And she cared a lot for her grandchildren."
Parisian was married to her husband, Ed Parisian, who passed away in 1994, for 45 years.
"I've known her all my life," Meyers said. "She turned out to be a good friend."