- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

BOZEMAN, Mont., Jan. 24 (UPI) — Icy roads in the mountains of Montana were blamed Friday for a traffic accident that killed a driver's education instructor and his three students.

All four victims died instantly Thursday afternoon when a semi-truck plowed into their 1997 Oldsmobile on a two-lane highway 4 miles west of Belgrade, a small community near Bozeman in southern Montana.

"It was slushy and icy and the driver's car went out of control and into the path of an eastbound tractor-trailer," Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Gary Becker told United Press International.

Becker said that speed did not appear to have contributed to the crash, and noted that Montana teens are routinely given experience behind the wheel during the winter months so they will be able to safely navigate treacherous roads during the long winters in Big Sky Country.

"It's part of living in Montana," he said, adding that weather conditions Thursday had been erratic.

The victims were identified Friday as instructor Robert Sellis, 49, a teacher for more than 20 years at Manhattan Christian School in Belgrade; Sellis was riding in the front seat of the car that was driven by 14-year-old Eric Eckhoff. The other two victims who were in the back seat — Matthew Lucht and Alex VanEgmond — were also 14.

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