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Man charged with vehicular homicide for 2021 death of Billings teen

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Posted at 2:22 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 19:42:25-05

BILLINGS - A man has been charged after prosecutors allege speed, marijuana use, and inattentive driving led to a crash that killed a Billings teen.

Christian James Harshbarger, 20, was charged in Yellowstone County District Court on Monday with vehicular homicide while under the influence, negligent vehicular assault, and two counts of criminal endangerment, all felonies. Harshbarger has yet to appear in court on the charges.

The charges stem from the fatal crash on Feb. 2, 2021 at the intersection of Rimrock Road and Virginia Lane. Christine Croft, 17, was killed and her 14-year-old passenger seriously injured in the crash that happened at about 3:40 p.m.

The crash also resulted in a lawsuit against the City of Billings alleging negligence.

In court records, prosecutors allege Harshbarger was driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck eastbound on Rimrock Road at 52 mph in a posted zone of 35 mph when a Toyota Camry driven by Croft attempted a lefthand turn on to Rimrock Road from Virginia Lane.

The truck hit the Camry on the driver's side causing heavy damage, and Croft died at the scene. Investigators said there was no evidence of braking on the part of the pickup truck prior to the crash, court records state.

The 14-year-old passenger in the Toyota and two passengers in the pickup truck all were treated at Billings hospitals for injuries suffered in the crash.

Investigators said Harshbarger was cooperative after the crash and agreed to voluntarily submit to a blood draw prior to being hospitalized for his injuries. He also allowed officers to seize his cell phone, court records state.

Prosecutors allege the blood draw later revealed Harshbarger had a THC content 11 NG/ML in his blood, which they state is more than twice the legal limit of 5 NG/ML in Montana for driving.

Harshbarger also told investigators that just prior to the crash he passed a friend who was driving in the opposite direction on Rimrock Road and he looked over and pointed at him as they passed. He said when he looked forward the Toyota was in front of his truck, court records state.

Croft's family later filed a lawsuit against the City of Billings alleging negligence by the city and Harshbarger. The suit states the city was aware that the intersection was unsafe and dangerous and knew the line of sight distance for motorists at the intersection did not comply with recognized roadway intersection design standards.

The lawsuit is pending.

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