Friday, July 19, 2024
73.0°F

Woman lucky to be alive after tree harpoons her car

by CHRIS PETERSON
Hungry Horse News | July 11, 2024 12:00 AM

Kaitlin Hagadone is counting her lucky stars. 

On July 1 the Columbia Falls woman was driving home alone from work down Half Moon Road when lightning struck a big larch alongside the road.

“I watched the lightning strike the tree and watched it explode,” she said. Instinctively she swerved her 2006 Saturn Ion into the other lane.

It was the margin needed to save her life.

A 12-foot chunk of the tree went through the front windshield, harpooned the passenger seat, went through the back seat between her children’s car seats and two feet into the trunk.

Thankfully, no car was coming in the opposite direction, or she would have had a head-on collision.

“I just felt the car shake and get spun,” she said.

She turned her head away from the broken glass. The car is a standard transmission and the tree narrowly missed her shifting hand. She came away unscathed, but definitely shaken up.

Passersby stopped to see if she was OK. 

Hagadone is a heavy equipment operator at F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber. When she left work, she said she saw lightning here and there, but nothing extraordinary.

She said she was thankful none of her family was in the car. She has two small children and the tree went between the car seats. Her husband, Ty Cowan, typically drives and if he had been driving and she was in the passenger seat ... well, it’s not something anyone wants to think about.

The car is ruined, but after completing an accident report with Montana Highway Patrol at the scene, they let her drive it home.

It’s a shame, she noted. She really liked the little car. It ran well and was reliable. Now she’s driving the family diesel pickup truck until she can find something else.