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Survivor of deadly Cardwell Hill pile-up reflects as she recovers from crash

“I woke up one morning to a voicemail from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office--they said we have something of yours in our possession,” said Adele. "It's your finger."
Posted at 8:05 PM, Jan 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 13:11:03-05

BOZEMAN — On Jan. 7, a woman from Salt Lake City and three other passengers were on their way home from Billings in icy road conditions. That’s when they were caught in a deadly pile-up on Cardwell Hill.

"I looked down and I noticed my finger was gone,” said Adele Beck.

Beck was visiting Billings with some friends driving on I-90, a route she'd taken plenty of times.

But on the 7th of January, Adele faced a surprising event on her commute back to Utah once she reached Cardwell Hill.

“I could see up ahead that a semi had jackknifed across the road,” she said.

Because of icy conditions, Adele says she was only traveling at about 30 miles per hour. She was able to come to a stop, just barely hitting the semi.

"I said to my passengers, ‘Is everybody okay?’,” said Adele.

Just a second later, Adele’s vehicle was hit from behind by another driver.

“We were hit so hard that we were shoved underneath the semi,” said Adele.

A feeling that she struggles to even describe.

“I just don’t have words for it—just this jumble of noise, chaos, and mess,” said Adele.

Adele and her friend in the passenger seat began shouting out to the passengers in the back seat, Katie Montgomery and her 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, once again asking, "Is everyone okay?”

“The seven-year-old was crying, so we knew she was alive,” said Adele.

But they never got a response from Katie, who was killed instantly.

When Adele began to asses her own injuries, she noticed her finger was gone.

"And I was trapped beneath the semi trailer,” said Adele.

The jaws of life were used to remove Adele and her fellow passengers. She was taken to the hospital, where the decision was made to life-flight her down to Salt Lake City where surgeons would fight to save as many fingers and functionality on her right hand as possible.

Adele says, “I’ve got pins in every direction, fractures, dislocations.” And a long road of healing ahead of her, especially once the time comes to relearn day-to-day activities with a missing finger.

“My hand just doesn’t look like my hand anymore,” said Adele.

Adele is crafty. She loves beadwork, calligraphy—and she has naturally curly hair, which is hard to manage with all 10 fingers, she says.

“I feel like my whole life has been taken away from me—that’s what it feels like,” said Adele. “I know with training I can get a lot of these skills back but there are things I’ll never be able to do again because somebody wasn’t driving to conditions. They made the decision that speed was more important and that’s where my anger comes from.”

However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t trying to make light of a dark situation.

“I woke up one morning to a voicemail from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. They said we have something of yours in our possession,” Adele said.

It was her finger.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been collecting all the terrible jokes,” said Adele. “There are just things in life you can’t control."

But what Adele says she can control is her attitude.

“Something kept me safe and kept my other two passengers safe,” said Adele. “Katie wasn't spared, and that hurts—but I'm grateful that I was.”

To make a donation toward Adele Beck’s recovery, you can visit: