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Trial date set for woman accused of vehicular homicide

by Jeff Smith/For the Leader
| June 6, 2024 12:00 AM

Judge John Mercer set a trial date of Oct. 28 for a Kalispell woman who is accused of being impaired and causing a fiery head-on crash that killed a man. Sarah Elizabeth Loschke, 29, entered a plea of not guilty in Polson District Court May 30 to felony vehicular homicide while under the influence.

According to court records, at around 3:30 p.m. May 12, Lake County’s 911 dispatch center received a call from a concerned citizen regarding a possibly impaired driver in a Volkswagen SUV. The Volkswagen was southbound on U.S. Highway 93 in the Elmo area.

The suspected impaired driver was reportedly driving erratically, stopping on occasion and swerved into oncoming traffic about a half a dozen times as it approached the Armed Forces Memorial Bridge in Polson. The reporting party witnessed the Volkswagen cross into oncoming traffic on the bridge and strike a northbound Toyota, driven by Arden Cowan, 74, of Stevensville.

Polson Police Officer Matt Gomez was the first to arrive at the crash site. He noticed smoke coming from the engine compartments of both the Volkswagen and Toyota. The officer attempted to extinguish the fire with a handheld fire extinguisher.

Unable to extinguish the fire, Gomez cut the seat belt of the Toyota and removed Cowan to a safe distance away, before removing Loschke and then a dog from the Volkswagen. A dog that was in the Toyota, could not be saved due to the rapidly spreading fire, and died as a result.

Polson Fire arrived and shut down both lanes of traffic on the bridge as they extinguished the fire. The bridge reopened about two hours later.

Loschke was transported to St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson for treatment of injuries sustained in the crash and a blood draw, results of which are pending as of this report.

After being advised of her rights, Loschke stated that she had been taking Ativan (benzodiazepine), which is a central nervous system depressor, according to the charging documents. She had received a prescription for 10 Ativan pills on the day prior to the accident, May 11, and had three left.

Loschke’s mother told investigators that her daughter had recently relapsed with an alcohol problem, and was hospitalized the night before due to alcohol consumption and had a blood alcohol content of .298 at that time.

Judge Mercer set a pretrial (omnibus hearing), for Aug. 8. Loschke is at liberty after posting a $100,000 bond. Lake County Attorney James Lapotka said Loschke’s release includes a number of conditions, including wearing an alcohol monitoring device.