A well-known member of the Lovell Police Dept., Phil Angell, was severely injured in a one-vehicle rollover accident on Saturday near the causeway at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains.
Angell, an animal control officer employed by the police department, was enjoying some time off from work in the mountains with his wife Linda in their recently purchased fifth-wheel trailer, when he realized he forgot something at home. Angell headed toward Lovell in his personal vehicle, a pickup truck, to retrieve the item, leaving his wife with the fifth-wheel trailer on the mountain.
According to witness accounts, Angell’s vehicle crossed the road without braking, crashing on the opposite side of the road in an area located east of the causeway. The official cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but two motorcycle riders, traveling in the opposite direction who witnessed the accident told responders at the scene that Angell appeared to be asleep at the wheel. Witnesses said the vehicle rolled several times. Though not wearing a seatbelt at the time, Angell was not thrown from the vehicle during the crash.
According to Fire Chief Jim Minchow, Angell was extricated from the vehicle using the Jaws of Life within 10 minutes of firefighters’ arrival at the scene. He said an awaiting ambulance immediately took Angell to the emergency room at North Big Horn Hospital in Lovell. He was later flown by emergency helicopter services to St. Vincent Hospital in Billings, where he remains in critical condition with a fractured neck, eye socket and several broken ribs among other injuries.
Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn said sheriff’s dispatch received the call reporting the accident at approximately 11 a.m. Sheriff’s deputies, an ambulance and firefighters were dispatched to the scene. Angell’s son Jeff, a deputy with the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Dept., was not on duty at the time, but was dispatched as a volunteer fireman. On his way to the scene of the accident with fellow firefighters, Angell received a call on his cell phone notifying him that his father was the victim in the accident.
“This is not uncommon in a small town,” explained Blackburn. “Often, first responders know the victim when they respond in these situations.”
Blackburn said other responders at the scene helped Jeff deal with the shock of seeing his own father involved in such a serious accident. Minchow and Blackburn both said they were very impressed with the professional manner with which the first responders handled the situation.
“Jeff was very upset, but he trusted us and just let us do our job,” said Minchow. “I think he knew we would do everything we could to help his father.”
According to numerous sources, Angell, who is in his 70s, remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at St. Vincent Hospital. He is expected to undergo surgery for his neck injuries later this week, which are considered severe.
By Patti Carpenter