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Thursday, March 26th 2015
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Republican proposes 'religious freedom' referendum

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker has proposed asking voters if they want additional religious protections in the Montana Constitution.

Rep. Carl Glimm of Kila says he brought House Bill 615 before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday to prioritize people's personal beliefs above job descriptions. He gave examples such as a county clerk who doesn't want to issue a same-sex marriage license or a pharmacist who didn't want to dispense birth control pills or emergency contraceptives.

The proposal would give people a right to challenge state laws they say burden their freedom to exercise religion.

Former Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson and other opponents argue codifying the religious protections would open the floodgates for individuals, corporations and churches to object to any state law they say violates their religion.


Senate advances 80 mph highway speed limit proposal

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana senators have endorsed the only surviving bill to raise highway speed limits.

Senators voted 31-19 to pass Senate Bill 375 on second reading Wednesday. Sen. Scott Sales' measure would raise highway speed limits from 75 mph to 80 mph in certain areas where the Montana Department of Transportation deems that speed to be safe.

It would also raise speeding fines from a maximum of $100 to $200.

Three other proposals to raise highway speed limits have died this session after the Montana Highway Patrol spoke against those bills. The patrol favors Sales' measure, which is the only proposal to include increased fines.

SB 375 passed out of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee along party lines last week after the committee struck a provision that would have raised truck speeds in certain areas.


Second Senate panel hears Medicaid expansion bill

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The last-standing Medicaid expansion bill in the Montana Legislature has had a second hearing after it stalled in a different committee on Monday.

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee focused on the financial portion of Senate Bill 405 Wednesday. It was referred to that panel after the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee stalled in its consideration of the measure.

Republican Sen. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls unveiled the compromise proposal last week, which would expand Medicaid to low-income Montanans and require they pay health care premiums and co-payments. Enrollees also would be asked to participate in a workplace-assessment survey.

The bill is likely dead if it doesn't pass through the Senate by March 31.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's proposal to expand Medicaid was defeated earlier this month.


Montana education committee OKs proposal for charter schools

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Representatives have passed a proposal to fund charter schools out of the Montana House Education Committee.

After hearing testimony on the measure, committee members voted 9-6 along party lines Wednesday to put House Bill 596 on the floor of the House.

Speaker of the House Rep. Austin Knudsen presented the proposal to fully fund schools that operate largely autonomously.

The Culbertson Republican said charter schools offer a free and inclusive option for students who want or need a more rigorous public education.

Opponents said the schools would divert public dollars to experimental educational institutions over which the state would have little control.

Charter schools have been established in 43 other states. They are privately managed and typically hold students accountable through goals outlined in a contract with the state.


Prospects minimal to recover more oil from Yellowstone spill

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — State and federal regulators say the response to a 30,000-gallon oil spill into Montana's Yellowstone River is shifting from emergency crude recovery to long-term monitoring and remediation.

Paul Peronard with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that about 2,500 gallons of oil were recovered. That's just over 8 percent of the amount spilled.

Because there are minimal prospects for further oil recovery, Peronard says his agency no longer has jurisdiction over the spill. That means the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will become the lead agency in the response.

The Jan. 17 pipeline breach temporarily contaminated the water treatment plant downstream in Glendive.

State officials say they will negotiate with pipeline owner Bridger Pipeline LLC of Casper, Wyoming, in coming months over a penalty for water pollution violations.


Senate Democrats seek tougher federal rules for oil trains

SEATTLE (AP) — Senate Democrats have proposed federal legislation to strengthen safety standards for trains that carry volatile shipments of crude oil.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell on Wednesday said the measure would ban the use of older tank cars, regulates the volatility of crude oil carried on trains and ensures that rail infrastructure is properly maintained.

Cantwell cited four oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada since February and said more derailments are likely as trains carry increasing amounts of crude oil through numerous communities across the country. A runaway oil train derailed in Quebec in 2013, killing 47 people.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin said accidents are increasing at an alarming rate and more must be done to reduce risks.

Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Dianne Feinstein of California are co-sponsors.


Students begin taking Common Core exams

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's public school students will start taking a new standardized test this week to gauge how well they're meeting the new Common Core educational standards.

The reading and math tests are considered more difficult than the older, multiple-choice tests. Under the Common Core tests, students will be asked to find the answers to problems and, in some cases, explain their reasoning.

The Smarter Balanced exam will be given to students in grades 3 through 8 and high school juniors in 17 states this spring.

The Billings Gazette reports the exam is administered by computer and questions will adjust in difficulty as students answer previous ones to indicate more precisely what they know.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau says this year's test scores will give the state's schools a starting point from which to build.


Transient pleads guilty to campground beating death

DILLON, Mont. (AP) — A transient has admitted killing a Butte man at a southwestern Montana campground last summer.

KWYB-TV in Butte reports 29-year-old Christopher Stiles pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide Tuesday during a hearing before District Judge Loren Tucker in Dillon. A plea agreement calls for a 100-year prison sentence with 50 suspended.

Robert Mullan was killed at a campground near Wise River on Aug. 8, 2014. His body was found the next day.

Co-defendant Sandra Cantrell has pleaded not guilty to accountability to deliberate homicide. Her trial is scheduled for July 20.

Court records say Cantrell told investigators she stabbed Mullan when he tried to have sex with her and suggested Stiles join them. Stiles said Cantrell told him to "man up" so he hit Mullan in the head with a piece of firewood, killing him.


Settlement talks held in mine dispute involving Schweitzer

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Settlement talks were held Wednesday in a mining dispute in which former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and others are seeking $10 million compensation over some mining claims.

There was no immediate word on whether the two sides reached a resolution.

The claims, or mining rights, were condemned in a legal action brought by Spokane-based Mines Management Inc. to make way for its Montanore Mine silver and copper mine near Libby.

Attorneys representing Schweitzer and others who own the claims requested the settlement conference. That came after U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen last month shot down some key arguments used by Schweitzer's group to justify the $10 million award it is seeking.

If the talks don't result in a deal, an April 8 trial is planned in Missoula, where an expert commission could decide the matter.

Schweitzer was a two-term Democratic governor.


4 Montana State basketball players leaving team

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana State men's basketball coach Brian Fish says four underclassmen from the 2014-15 team will not be returning next season.

Junior forward Terrell Brown and two freshmen — center Bradley Fisher and guard Joey Frenchwood — will continue their careers elsewhere. Fish says sophomore forward Ryan Shannon is retiring due to health concerns, but plans to remain a student at MSU.

Brown played in 28 of the Bobcats' 30 games this season, averaging 4.1 points and two rebounds. Fisher played in 11 games and Frenchwood played in 24 games, averaging 2.4 points.

Fish thanked the players for their contributions and wished them luck in the future. MSU also graduated three seniors.

The MSU men's basketball team finished in a three-way tie for last place in the Big Sky Conference standings and posted a 7-23 overall record in Fish's first season as head coach.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, March 25th 2015
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Montana agency: Real estate mogul owes $73.8M in back taxes

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana revenue officials say one-time billionaire and Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth owes almost $74 million in back taxes, penalties and interest, primarily on a $375 million loan to the luxury resort near Big Sky that he diverted for personal use.

Department of Revenue officials announced Tuesday that a tax board had sided against the real estate mogul in a series of recent rulings after Blixseth challenged the state's tax claims.

Blixseth says he will appeal the tax board decisions in state court.

Revenue officials say the Washington state resident misappropriated more than $270 million from a 2005 Credit Suisse loan to buy cars, jets and high-priced properties.

He was originally assessed $56 million in back taxes. The amount owed has increased to $73.8 million as interest continues accumulating.


House Democrats blast dark money bill, Thursday debate set

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — House Democrats have used one of only six "silver bullet" motions to get a bill that would require more disclosure surrounding campaign donations onto the floor for debate.

The House voted 52-48 on Tuesday to bring Senate Bill 289 out of the House Business and Labor Committee, where it's been sitting since a hearing last week. Silver bullet motions allow bills to come to the floor with only a simple majority vote.

Republicans then made unsuccessful motions to send the bill back to committees. When they tried to table the bill, Democratic Rep. Tom Woods of Bozeman made a substitute motion to adjourn for the day, which passed by a 52-48 vote.

The bill remains in the House and is scheduled for a floor debate Thursday, according to House Democratic aide Carissa Kemp.


House endorses bill to increase abortion regulations

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The House has endorsed a bill that would increase abortion regulations based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain after the 20th week of pregnancy.

The House passed the amended measure by a 56-44 vote on second reading Tuesday.

House Bill 479 brought by Republican Rep. Albert Olszewski of Kalispell would require the use of fetal anesthesia for abortions and other operations after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It would require that doctors perform tests to determine the gestational age of a fetus before an abortion and mandate reporting the use of fetal anesthesia in abortions.

Doctors who do not comply could be reported to a professional licensing board. The bill will go to the Senate for consideration if it passes third reading.

The bill originally called for fines and jail time for non-compliance.


Ankney proposes fees for companies that close coal plants

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Republican senator has proposed fees be levied against companies that shut down coal-fired power plants in Montana.

Retired coal miner Sen. Duane Ankney proposed a "coal county impact fee" in the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee Tuesday.

Under the Senate Bill 402, an energy or utility company that buys a coal plant with the intent to close it would be charged an annual fee of five times the taxable value of the facility for 20 years. The fee would be two times the facility's taxable value for 10 years if the plant was previously owned.

The county where the facility is or was located would receive 50 percent of the collected fee, the Department of Revenue could keep 1 percent and the rest would go to the state.


House panel to take action on revenue estimate compromise

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A House tax panel is expected to take action this week on a three-year state revenue estimate that's a compromise between the latest recommendations from lawmakers and the governor's office.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports House Taxation Committee Chair Mike Miller reluctantly urged his Republican colleagues on Monday to accept a proposed $6.761 billion revenue estimate for fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The proposal unanimously passed out of the Joint Subcommittees on Revenue Estimating on Friday. It totals $232 million more than the Legislative Fiscal Division's calculation, $43.6 million more than a legislative interim committee's estimate and falls $82 million below that of the governor's budget office.

Miller said that, in his opinion, the estimate was still too high, but the negotiated estimate will help avoid the governor's veto on whatever budget passes out of the Legislature.


Airspace expansion over Northern Plains gets final approval

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Federal aviation regulators have given final approval to establish an enormous bomber training area over the Northern Plains.

U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration approved a plan to expand the Powder River Training Complex over North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Spanning across nearly 35,000 square miles, it will be the largest training airspace over the continental U.S.

The airspace will be used by B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and B-52 bombers at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Thune says the expansion will help prevent the closure of Ellsworth, improve national security and save on fuel costs.

Critics say the bombers will disrupt rural communities and businesses, and scare livestock.


No charges for Libby woman who shot son-in-law

(Information in the following story is from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The Lincoln County attorney's office has decided not to file charges against a Libby woman who reported shooting her son-in-law to death on Dec. 26.

County Attorney Bernie Cassidy told Sheriff Roby Bowe that Lois Olbekson acted in self-defense when she shot 31-year-old Michael Roloff in her driveway.

The Flathead Beacon newspaper in Kalispell reports Cassidy consulted with the attorney general's office before making his decision.

Cassidy said the autopsy and the blood spatter on the ground indicated Roloff was shot at close range and was lunging toward Olbekson just before he was shot.

Cassidy said Olbekson's daughter, Megan Cody, had filed numerous restraining orders against Roloff due to domestic violence.

Roloff's blood-alcohol level was 0.191 percent at the time of his death.


UM student recovering from hantavirus infection

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A 20-year-old University of Montana student is recovering from a hantavirus infection that left him hospitalized for nine days.

Antonio Morsette of Rocky Boy said he began suffering intense headaches on March 5. He said his eyes hurt, he had hot and cold flashes and was easily fatigued. He went to the hospital on March 10 and was admitted the next day when his temperature reached 103 degrees and he struggled to breathe.

He spent three days in a medically induced coma and two more days on a breathing tube. He was released on March 20.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were still investigating, but Morsette said they told him he likely contracted the respiratory infection while using power washers at the recycling center on campus.

Mice shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva.


EPA proposes adding aluminum smelter site to Superfund list

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comment on its proposal to place the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. site on its National Priorities List for Superfund designation.

The listing is subject to a 60-day comment period beginning on Thursday. It would mean the site was eligible for further investigation to see if there are enough hazardous substances to warrant a federal cleanup.

The plant about two miles northeast of Columbia Falls operated as an aluminum smelter between 1955 and 2009. The EPA and the state of Montana have determined that a comprehensive investigation is necessary to identify ways to clean up the cyanide, fluoride, arsenic, chromium, lead and selenium in the soils to address health and environmental concerns.

CFAC opposes the Superfund designation, arguing it will slow cleanup efforts and hinder redevelopment.


Yellowstone County shooting victim dies

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 22-year-old Billings woman has died of injuries suffered in a weekend shooting.

Yellowstone County Undersheriff Kevin Evans said Kayla Jeanette Kinder died Monday.

John Edward Szydlowski was arrested on suspicion of assault with a weapon after leading officers on a car chase from the scene of the shooting Sunday morning.

Szydlowski was reported as a walk-away from the Alpha House pre-release center on March 15. He has previous convictions for accountability to theft, robbery and drug possession.

He was charged Monday with escape and drug possession and remained jailed Tuesday with his bail set at $50,000.

Evans said the county attorney's office will determine what, if any, additional charges will be filed.


Report says beetles don't make forests more likely to burn

DENVER (AP) — Mountain pine beetles have left vast tracts of dead, dry trees in the West, raising fears that they're more vulnerable to wildfire outbreaks, but a new study found no evidence that bug-infested forests are more likely to burn than healthy ones.

In a paper released Monday, University of Colorado researchers say weather and terrain are bigger factors in determining whether a forest will burn than beetle invasions.

The findings could provide some comfort to people who live near beetle-infested forests, if those trees are no more likely to burn.

But the study acknowledges that other researchers have found that trees killed by beetles pose different fire risks.

Previous studies by the U.S. Forest Service found beetle-killed trees ignite faster and burn more quickly than healthy trees.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, March 24th 2015
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

New Montana law could mean clemency for Barry Beach

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A bill signed by Montana's governor could pave the way to clemency for Barry Beach, who is serving a 100-year prison sentence for a 1979 murder he says he didn't commit.

Gov. Steve Bullock signed the measure Friday after it passed the Legislature with wide bipartisan support. It allows the governor to grant clemency to prisoners even if the state parole board recommends against it.

Beach's attorney Peter Camiel said Monday he plans to apply for a clemency hearing on the first day possible. The law takes effect Oct. 1.

Bullock has voiced support for commuting Beach's life sentence and giving him a chance for rehabilitation outside prison.

The governor declined to comment specifically on Beach's case Monday. But he said in a statement he takes the new responsibilities seriously and will exercise them judiciously.


Senate endorses funds for community-based mental health care

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana senators have given nearly unanimous approval to a slate of bills that would boost community-based mental health care.

Republican-sponsored House Bills 24, 33, 34 and 35, along with Democratic-sponsored House Bill 47 passed initial votes in the Senate on Monday with no more than four opponents.

The five measures would send a total of about $8 million to community-based mental health initiatives around the state including group homes, youth evaluations and secure, overnight emergency intervention.

The proposals replace or expand on portions of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's plan to expand mental health care. Lawmakers have cut nearly half of the governor's original $20 million plan, primarily denying additional funds to the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.

The governor's office has not yet backed the representatives' proposals.


Senate panel votes against amended Medicaid expansion bill

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A state Senate committee has stalled in its consideration of a measure to expand Medicaid to low-income Montanans that would require they pay health care premiums and copayments.

Members of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee defeated House Bill 405 by a 6-1 vote on Monday after the panel approved several amendments proposed by Republican committee chair Fred Thomas.

Subsequent motions to table the bill and give it an unfavorable report failed, keeping the bill alive for now.

The Montana Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership Act would accept federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to residents, including adults making up to $16,242 a year and a family of four earning up to $33,465.

Enrollees also would be asked to participate in a workplace-assessment survey.

Thomas said he plans to refer the bill to a Senate finance committee on Tuesday.


Bighorn sheep die-off closes hunting area near Yellowstone

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A bighorn sheep die-off caused by disease has triggered the closure of hunting for the animals just outside Yellowstone National Park.

Montana Wildlife officials said Monday that at least 34 bighorn sheep have died in the pneumonia outbreak that began late last year near Gardiner, Montana. That's almost 40 percent of the herd that ranges in the Gardiner and Cinnabar areas north of Yellowstone.

Wildlife commissioners issued the closure during a Monday conference call and said it would reopen when the population recovers.

Sheep in the Gardiner area have experienced smaller pneumonia outbreaks in the past few years.

There are domestic sheep in the same area. State officials say bacteria can be transmitted from healthy domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, causing pneumonia in the wild animals.


Legislature approves naming part of I-15 for fallen deputy

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Lawmakers have passed a bill to name a section of Interstate 15 near Great Falls in honor of a Cascade County deputy who died in the line of duty in August.

After nearly unanimous votes in the Senate and House, lawmakers gave final approval Monday to the Joseph J. Dunn Memorial Highway.

Dunn died on Aug. 14, 2014, after being struck by a vehicle on U.S. Highway 89 during a pursuit. The suspect is charged with deliberate homicide under the state's felony murder rule.

Dunn is survived by his parents, two siblings, his wife and two young children.

If signed by the governor, the renamed portion of Interstate 15 would stretch 8.5 miles from Ulm to the Gore Hill interchange at Great Falls, which is adjacent to the Cascade County sheriff's department.


Trial begins in killing over military branches

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Trial is scheduled to begin Monday in the case of a 63-year-old man charged with slashing the throat of another man during a drunken argument over whether the Army or the Marines are the better military branch.

William Earl Cunningham is charged with deliberate homicide in the Aug. 2 death of 40-year-old Nathaniel Horn during an argument in Laurel.

Court records say Cunningham, who served in the Army, had a 0.217 percent blood alcohol level less than two hours after the killing.

Public defender Gregory Paskell has said Cunningham's defense likely will argue justifiable use of force, arguing that Horn had taken a swing at him.

Prosecutors say Cunningham told investigators that he pushed Horn back and cut him.

The Billings Gazette reports jury selection was to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday.


Pre-release walkaway arrested in Billings shooting

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 31-year-old man who walked away from a pre-release center in Billings a week ago has been arrested on suspicion of shooting a woman and leading authorities on a car chase.

Yellowstone County Undersheriff Kevin Evans told The Billings Gazette on Monday that John Edward Szydlowski was being held on suspicion of assault with a weapon.

Officers responded to a reported shooting Sunday morning. After interviewing witnesses, officers spotted a vehicle matching the description of one belonging to a possible suspect. Szydlowski was arrested after a short chase.

Szydlowski was reported as a walk-away from the Alpha House pre-release center on March 15. He has previous convictions for accountability to theft, robbery and drug possession.

The sheriff's office did not release an update on the shooting victim's condition.


Mountain lion killed after attacking dog in Glacier park

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — A Glacier National Park ranger shot and killed a mountain lion that attacked a dog in an employee housing area in West Glacier.

Park officials say a park employee returned to her residence at 5 p.m. Saturday and her dogs unexpectedly raced out of the car. One of the dogs began fighting with a mountain lion.

The animals were separated briefly using a shovel, but they ended up tumbling over an embankment near the Flathead River.

A park ranger shot the mountain lion and rescued the dog, which had jumped into the river. Park official say the dog received several stitches and other treatment and is expected to survive.

Pets are allowed in developed areas of the park, but must be on a leash.

A necropsy will determine the health and age of the mountain lion.


Helena man charged with attempted homicide in stabbing

(Information in the following story is from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A 33-year-old Helena man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted deliberate homicide after a woman was stabbed several times, causing a collapsed lung and neck injuries that impeded the delivery of blood to her brain.

The Independent Record reports Jim Randolph Oliver was arrested Sunday morning after officers responded to a reported domestic dispute.

Witnesses told officers that Oliver stabbed the woman and was strangling her as she lay in a pool of blood. Court records say a witness hit Oliver in the head with a broken pool cue to stop the attack.

The woman was taken to the hospital in Helena and eventually flown to Seattle for surgery to treat neck wounds. She suffered three stab wounds to her back that collapsed a lung.

Oliver was taken to the hospital for treatment of a head injury.


Bighorn sheep die-off closes hunting area near Yellowstone

A bighorn sheep die-off caused by disease has triggered the closure of hunting for the animals just outside Yellowstone National Park.

Montana Wildlife officials said Monday that at least 34 bighorn sheep have died in the pneumonia outbreak that began late last year near Gardiner, Montana.

That's almost 40 percent of the herd that ranges in the Gardiner and Cinnabar areas north of Yellowstone.

Sheep in the Gardiner area have experienced smaller pneumonia outbreaks in the past few years.

There are domestic sheep in the same area. State officials say bacteria can be transmitted from healthy domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, causing pneumonia in the wild animals.


Pedestrian dies in Great Falls

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A 52-year-old woman was struck and killed over the weekend while trying to cross the street in Great Falls.

Police say the woman and another person were crossing the street at an intersection without a marked crosswalk at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday when the woman was hit.

Officers say the male driver traveling on a one-way street didn't see the pedestrian, who died at the scene. Cascade County officials identified the victim as Ramona Albert. Her hometown was not immediately available.

Police say the driver stayed at the scene and was cooperative. A preliminary investigation found that speed was likely not a factor in the crash.


Motorcyclist dies in crash with pickup near Arlee

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A 30-year-old man died when the motorcycle he was riding crossed into the path of a pickup truck on U.S. Highway 93 in western Montana.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the man was southbound near Arlee at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday when his motorcycle crossed into the northbound lanes and struck an oncoming pickup head-on. The Missoula County coroner's office says Raymond Gene Cook died at the scene. The patrol had said the victim was from North Dakota, but the coroner's office said he was from Missoula.

The pickup caught fire, but the man who was driving was able to get out before emergency crews arrived.

The crash and fire closed the highway for just over two hours. The crash remains under investigation.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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