A crash that killed a fire chief and a family of five in Montana was caused by a mechanical failure that caused the fire chief to lose control of the recently repaired fire engine he was driving, the Montana Highway Patrol said on Tuesday.
The June 20 crash near the state capital of Helena claimed the lives of Todd Rummel, 44, the new chief of the volunteer fire department in Three Forks, Montana, as well as Matthew Boegli, his wife Crystal Ross, and their three young children.
An investigation by the state Highway Patrol showed the accident was caused by a failure in the 2002 International fire truck's drivetrain, which delivers power to its wheels, Montana Highway Patrol Deputy Chief Greg Watson said in a statement.
The malfunction caused the fire engine to veer into the opposite lane and crash into the family's pickup. Both vehicles spun into a roadside ditch where they burst into flames, sparked by a rupture in the fire truck's diesel fuel tank, he said.
Rummel was driving the fire truck back to Three Forks from Helena, where it had been undergoing repairs on its water system. Watson said that component was "completely independent" of the fire engine's drivetrain.
A coroner's report indicated that Rummel died from smoke inhalation while unconscious, and that Boegli and his family died on impact from blunt force trauma, Watson said.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)