A single-vehicle crash Thursday morning killed a North Dakota family of four traveling eastbound on I-94 at mile marker 6.3, just east of the Huntley exit.
Sheriff Neil Kittelmann of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office in Ekalaka, confirmed on Friday morning the identities of the four victims as Anthony and Chelsi Dean, from the Grand Forks area of North Dakota, and their 5-year-old daughter Kaytlin Merie Dean and 20-month-old daughter Avri James Dean.
The family was driving a 2017 dark blue Toyota 4Runner and towing another vehicle on a trailer at about 7 a.m. The 4Runner veered off the roadway to the left and into the median, the Montana Highway Patrol said.
The vehicle continued in the median for a distance before going airborne off an embankment between the eastbound and westbound bridge decks. The SUV struck a concrete bridge support pillar of the eastbound bridge deck, then slid down the support and came to a rest nose down in Pryor Creek.
All four people died at the scene, the MHP said. Speed is suspected as a factor.
The MHP was notified of the crash Friday at 8 p.m., and arrived on the scene minutes later.
The family had been listed as missing, with messages posted on the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page and on Facebook by Anthony Dean’s mother, Leslie Dean-Webb, who lives in Caldwell, Idaho. On Facebook her profile name is L.d. Webb.
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The Carter County Sheriff’s Office was the lead law enforcement agency for the search. In cooperation with the Air Force, search and rescue aircraft was dispatched to look for the vehicle.
According to the information posted on Facebook and a TV report from KIVI-TV in Boise, Idaho, the family had been visiting Dean-Webb and left Caldwell on Wednesday afternoon. They were traveling to Ekalaka to have Thanksgiving dinner with Chelsi Dean’s grandmother.
The last time anyone heard from them, Leslie Dean-Webb told KIVI, was Thursday morning at 6:30 from Billings, when Chelsi Dean called her grandmother and said they’d be in Ekalaka in about four hours.
Anthony James Dean was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force with the 69th Maintenance Squadron at the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota where he was an RQ-4 Global Hawk crew chief. Chelsi Dean was a member of the Manvel Volunteer Fire Department in North Dakota. Both were originally from Caldwell, Idaho and were living in Manvel, North Dakota, according to the U.S. Air Force.
The Grand Forks Air Force Base issued a statement Saturday on their Facebook page.
"Words are not enough during a time like this," said Maj. Eric Inkenbrandt, 69th Maintenance Squadron commander, in the statement. "AJ's family brought a light to our community, and this loss strikes each of us deeply. May their friends and family be granted strength and serenity to get through this sorrowful time."