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Vets’ headstones destroyed in crash at Mountview Cemetery

(Mountview Cemetery/Facebook)

A vehicle rolled through Mountview Cemetery on Saturday, destroying more than a dozen veterans’ headstones.

Within the cemetery’s northern section, debris from a vehicle and pieces of cracked stone were seen scattered on the ground. Saturday’s crash was at least the third time a vehicle had struck grave markers on the cemetery’s grounds.

A total of 14 headstones were destroyed, Cemetery Supervisor Brandon Schmidt told the Gazette in an email, while at least two others were damaged.

The driver came into the cemetery from Central Avenue, Schmidt said. As of Saturday afternoon, the Billings Police Department had yet to confirm whether any arrests had been made in connection to the crash.

The City of Billings owns and maintains Mountview Cemetery, which consists of 65 acres. The cemetery has two sections designated to veterans. The iconic marble and granite headstones that epitomize burial sites for veterans of the United States military are supplied through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the department’s National Cemetery Administration. Each upright headstone stands 42 inches tall and weighs about 230 pounds.

In September 2020, a man at the wheel of an SUV smashed through 30 veterans’ headstones at Mountview Cemetery. The damage spurred calls from Montana’s federal delegation to have the VA replace the headstones. The VA shipped new headstones within about eight weeks. In 2009, a 17-year-old in a pickup truck crashed into four cemetery stones that were set in the 19th century, causing an estimated $60,000 to $70,000 in damage.

Schmidt estimated that it will take two to three months to replace the headstones destroyed and damaged on Saturday.


(c) 2024 the Billings Gazette

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