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Crisis team offers support to Billings West following student death

Crisis team offers support to Billings West following student death
Posted at 6:30 PM, Jan 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-08 20:31:02-05

BILLINGS — As both students and staff at Billings West High School are dealing with the death of 15-year-old Gavin McCombs, a student who died in a single-vehicle car wreck on Friday, a crisis response team was at the school Monday to offer support.

“This is kind of an all-hands-on-deck type thing. We want people there to help as much as they possibly can,” the school district's executive director of secondary education, Gordon Klasna, said on Monday.

The crisis response team is led by two counselors in Billings School District 2. Other counselors within the district are brought into the school, as well. Klasna said the team will be at the school as long as they are needed.

"They give them some hope, I think, and some guides on how to work through this time,” Klasna said.

McCombs's death marks the fifth teen killed in a car wreck in Billings in less than a month. On Dec. 16, 2023, four teens were killed in a single-vehicle crash.

“There are real consequences when you don’t follow the rules of the road,” said Billings Police Lt. Matt Lennick.

According to Lennick, speed was a contributing factor in both car wrecks.

“I think what we are seeing is that as our city grows, a lot of our roadways haven’t changed and so you’re putting more vehicles on the same roadway," Lennick said. "Then you add inexperienced driving, and you add speed, or you add impairment to those driving habits and that’s where you start having problems.”

According to the traffic education director with the Montana Office of Public Instruction, Dwight Nelson, an anonymous response survey that was offered to Montana teens found that 50% of teens always wear a seat belt while driving and 44% of teens say they always wear a seat belt while riding in a car.

"My heartfelt condolences to the families of those kids who passed away in the accidents out in the Billings area,” Nelson, who is located in Helena, said.

Nelson is involved in the Montana DRIVE workshops offered to both teens and adults during the summer. The class teaches drivers how to safely respond to risks on the roadways.

"It's important for teens because, you know, they're just starting out (driving) and they probably haven't seen some of these scenarios," Nelson said.

Some of the scenarios taught in the class are evasive steering, controlled braking, and off-road recovery. Registration for this summer's classes in Lewistown opens on Feb 1 for adults and March 1 for teens.