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Bus crashes in Montana; at least 2 reported dead

MISSOULA (AP) — A bus crashed Sunday on an icy interstate highway in southwestern Montana, killing at least two people and sending more than two dozen to area hospitals, officials said.

The westbound Rimrock Trailways bus crashed on Interstate 90 near Clinton, about 18 miles southeast of Missoula, shortly after 7 a.m., Dan Ronan of the American Bus Association said.

The crash was one of several reported along that stretch of highway Sunday morning, closing a portion of the interstate. It was not clear if there were additional injuries, or how many.

Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Greg Watson told the Missoulian ( ) that two people died in the bus crash. The newspaper reported that two others from the bus were in critical condition.

Ronan could not confirm the number of fatalities.

A dispatcher at the Montana State Police Communication center declined to release any information Sunday morning, saying the investigation was still under way.

Mary Windecker, spokeswoman for the Community Medical Center in Missoula, said 20 passengers were taken there to be treated for various injuries, none critical. Eleven others were taken to St. Patrick Hospital, also in Missoula, she said.

A St. Patrick spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press Sunday morning.

The Missoulian reported that the bus originated in Billings. Ronan said electronic equipment on the bus indicated it was going 65 mph at the time of the crash.

Andy Burke, a firefighter with the Missoula Fire Department, said officials shut down a 10-mile section of the Interstate after multiple other crashes, including a tractor-trailer rollover. He was unsure of the number of injuries from those crashes.

"I don't know how many total ambulances there were," he said. "We saw quite a few of them passing us back and forth."

Burke said it appears the roadway had become wet and then froze, catching drivers off guard.

"It turned into a sheet of ice," he said. "That whole section was just super slick. Definitely black ice conditions."


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