Negligent homicide
charged in traffic death

July 6, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Terry Gale Cassidy, 37, of Seeley Lake was struck and killed by a truck late Friday evening as he maneuvered his wheel chair south on Highway 83, and the driver of the truck has been charged with negligent homicide.

Deputy Missoula County Attorney Scott Stearns said that Ralph H. Prazak, 29, of Seeley Lake remained in jail Monday with bond set at $100,000, after he tested 0.148 in a breath test following the accident. A reading of .10 is considered legally drunk.

Prazak also has been charged with leaving the scene of the accident though he later had a friend call authorities to come get him and surrendered himself.

The accident happened near the entrance to the Timberline Building on the east side of Highway 83 where Cassidy was driving his motorized wheel chair south outside the fog line of the northbound lane.

The truck, a late 1970's white Chevrolet, according to Stearns, was northbound when it swerved across the fog line and hit Cassidy, Stearns said.

A deputy sheriff, Kelly Keintz, working nearby had seen Cassidy heading down the highway and then heard an "awful crash," Stearns said, and looked up to see the victim and wheel chair being tossed in the air from the impact. Keintz ran to the victim and could see Cassidy had been killed instantly from the impact.

Stern said the pickup parked at the Saloon parking lot and the driver ran to a friend's home. Another passenger was in the vehicle at the time of the accident which happened around 11:45 p.m., Stearns said.

Later Prazak, while admitting his role in the accident, told authorities his vehicle swerved across the line when he reached up to turn on an interior light to look for a watch.

Stearns said Cassidy's wheel chair was adequately marked with large size reflectors and a bike flag.

Prazak made his initial appearance before Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech who set the high bail. In the next couple of weeks there will either be a preliminary hearing, or Prazak will be arraigned before a District Court judge, Stearns said.

Services for Cassidy, who is survived by his parents, Ruth and Monty Cassidy of Seeley Lake, a daughter and other immediate family members, will be held Wednesday, July 5, at 2 p.m. at Faith Chapel with private family burial services at Seeley Lake Cemetery. An obituary appears elsewhere in this issue.

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