LaMotte damage

Damage done to the inside of a classroom at LaMotte Elementary east of Bozeman after a Ford Explorer crashed into the building on the morning of Dec. 2, 2011.

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A Ford Explorer crashed into the main entrance of LaMotte Elementary School about 10 miles east of Bozeman on Friday morning.

No one was injured, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Brad Moore said.

The vehicle’s teenage driver was heading to nearby Mount Ellis Academy with two others when she hit an icy, snow-packed stretch of road and lost control at 7:40 a.m., Moore said. The girl, whom the trooper did not identify, overcorrected the SUV, the trooper said.

As the northbound vehicle began sliding sideways, it gravitated toward the school’s parking lot, which is slightly downhill from the road, said LeeAnn Burke, principal of the kindergarten through eighth-grade school. The SUV slid, went through a railing and down some steps and collided with the entrance to the school, she said.

The trooper said all three people in the car were wearing seatbelts. The driver was cited for careless driving, he said.

The car hit the school right where kids enter the building in the morning and toss their backpacks before heading to the playground, Burke said.

“Fortunately it was just a few minutes before the kids started to arrive,” Burke said. “It’s also fortunate that the kids that were in the vehicle had their seatbelts on and they weren’t hurt.”

The SUV hit the corner of the school’s east-facing breezeway and knocked it off its foundation and collapsed a door, she said. The vehicle continued on and hit the end of the school building, punching in a wall and knocking a bunch of books off their shelves in the sixth-grade classroom, Burke said.

Heat isn’t working in the classroom, but Burke said kids were wearing sweatshirts and jackets and still using the room. The room will get checked out over the weekend, and if the heat is still not working, the classroom will be moved to a second building called the “annex,” Burke said.

Parents will be able to drop off their children at the gate to the school’s playground. The only thing that will change as a result of the accident is the kids will go through the lunchroom door rather than the main entrance, the principal said.

But the larger issue at hand is the speed limit around the school, she said. It used to be posted as 15 mph from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. But signs around the area were changed to 15 mph when students are present, Burke said.

“There could just as easily have been a child standing there as not,” Burke said. “In the winter, when the conditions are less than favorable, we all need to slow down and pay attention.”

Jason Bacaj may be reached at jasonb@dailychronicle.com or 582-2635.


Original Report: A Ford Explorer crashed into the main entrance of LaMotte Elementary School east of Bozeman at 7:40 a.m. No one was injured in the accident, said Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Brad Moore.

Kids hadn’t begun arriving, and the car’s three occupants were wearing seatbelts at the time of the wreck. The teenage driver of the vehicle was cited for careless driving, the trooper said.

There was extensive damage to the front of the building, said LeeAnn Burke, principal of the kindergarten through eighth grade school on Bear Canyon Road.

“Fortunately it was just a few minutes before the kids started to arrive,” Burke said. “It’s also fortunate that the kids that were in the vehicle had their seatbelts on and they weren’t hurt.”

Jason Bacaj may be reached at jasonb@dailychronicle.com or 582-2635.

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