The man who died Wednesday afternoon in an Interstate 90 collision 13 miles east of Clinton was a young Broadwater County detention officer from Townsend.
Granite County Sheriff Scott Dunkerson identified the victim Thursday morning as Dominic Stefano, who was pronounced dead on the scene. Stefano, 19, was the driver of a GMC Sierra that careened from the westbound lane east of Beavertail Hill, crossed the median and was struck by an eastbound tractor trailer with a full load.
The impact caused the semi and trailer to roll on their sides in the eastbound lane, limiting traffic flow for hours.
Montana Highway Patrol said a male passenger traveling with Stefano, also 19, was transported first to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, then to Seattle with unspecified injuries. The driver of the semi, a 41-year-old male from Marietta, Georgia, was hospitalized in Missoula.
Investigators said Thursday it’s still unknown why Stefano’s pickup veered across the median. The interstate surface was wet but not snow-covered or icy. Drugs or alcohol are not suspected, and speed wasn’t a factor, according to MHP. Stefano was wearing a seatbelt. It wasn’t determined if his passenger was.
Broadwater County Sheriff Wynn Meehan said Thursday on a Facebook post that his department “lost a family member” in the crash.
“Officer Stefano was a vibrant, smiling and hard-working young man that had desire to do great things,” Meehan said. “It was a pleasure to work with him and he will be sorely missed in the office. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers today, and the upcoming days as they work through this horrific tragedy.”
Meehan added: “All of us here at the Broadwater County Sheriff's Office are keeping the young man that was Dominic's passenger and his family in our thoughts and prayers, and praying for a healthy, speedy recovery.”
The crash happened near mile marker 133 on I-90.
Stefano’s death occurred eight months after Mason Moore, a Broadwater County sheriff’s deputy, was shot and killed outside Three Forks. The shooting touched off a search for Lloyd Barrus and his son, Marshall, that resulted in a high-speed chase across several counties. It ended in a shootout in Missoula County along I-90 near mile marker 129.
Marshall Barrus was shot in the head and died the next day. His father was captured and has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including deliberate homicide.