- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Newly released toxicology reports show that one of the two drivers in a June collision that killed six people had methamphetamine in his system, though investigators concluded that drugs weren’t a factor in the crash.

Matthew Boegli of Townsend was driving Crystal Ross and their three young children on U.S. Highway 12 outside Helena when Three Forks Fire Chief Todd Rummel lost control of his fire engine and veered into the family’s path on June 19.

Nobody survived the fiery crash, which investigators determined was an accident caused by a mechanical failure of the fire engine’s front drivetrain.

The Montana Highway Patrol presented its conclusions more than two months after the crash, but troopers and the Jefferson County attorney’s office refused to release the results of the toxicology investigation.

The Jefferson County attorney’s office handed over the toxicology reports after a judge ordered their release under a petition filed by The Associated Press and Independent Record.

The state Department of Justice’s Forensic Science Division found Boegli had a methamphetamine blood-concentration of 1.2 milligrams per liter.

Montana has no methamphetamine impairment standards. However, federal transportation safety officials say concentrations of more than .2 milligrams per liter are considered abuse, and past DUI cases have found impaired drivers with blood concentrations as low as .05 milligrams per liter.

Impairment can lead to distraction, disorientation and cognitive damage in drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Department of Justice spokesman John Barnes said despite the report, investigators don’t believe Boegli could have done anything more to avoid the crash. He swerved onto the shoulder of the highway to avoid the fire engine, but there wasn’t enough time or space on the roadway to prevent the crash, Barnes said.

“Without the information you would obtain from a field sobriety test or direct observation, it is difficult to know the level of impairment just by looking at the number,” Barnes said. “We don’t see any indication that he could have done anything else to avoid that accident.”

Boegli’s brother, William Boegli, said he read the reports and spoke with the officers involved in the investigation. He said he agreed with the conclusion that his brother couldn’t have avoided the crash, but he did not know about the drugs in his system.

“I knew my little brother smoked marijuana, but I didn’t think he went beyond that,” William Boegli said. “I just didn’t realize that Matt would have been impaired like that.”

Rummel’s toxicology report found caffeine and naproxen, an anti-inflammatory drug in pain relievers such as Aleve.

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