BILLINGS, Mont. - A Grand Forks County family that went missing on Thanksgiving has been found dead as a result of a car crash east of Billings, the Montana Highway Patrol confirmed Saturday morning.
Chelsi Kay Dean, a member of the Manvel, N.D., Volunteer Fire Department, was driving this week with her husband, Anthony, and their two children from a relative's house in Caldwell, Idaho, to Ekalaka, Mont., when they went missing, according to a UND Police Department tweet sent Friday. Ekalaka is about 260 miles east of Billings.
The last contact from them came around 6:30 a.m. Thursday while they were in Billings, when they sent a message saying they would arrive at their destination by 11:30 a.m. that day, Sgt. Andy Schneider of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office said.
According to the Highway Patrol, the family was driving a blue Toyota Forerunner east on Interstate 94 around 7 a.m. when the vehicle went off the road and crashed into a median. The vehicle traveled down the median “for a distance before going airborne” off an embankment between the eastbound and westbound bridge deck, the MHP said.
The vehicle flew in the air before hitting a concrete bridge support and landing in a creek.
According to other media reports, due to the surrounding shrubs and how far down the vehicle had landed, the Highway Patrol was not able to locate the vehicle until a cellphone was pinged.
The couple’s children, Kaytlin, 5, and Avri, 1, were also traveling with the couple and did not survive.
The crash occurred near Huntley, Mont., which is about 13 miles east of Billings.
No other details about the crash were immediately available and it remains under investigation.
L.D. Webb, the mother of Anthony Dean, posted on Facebook that her “Mom and Grandma heart is broken into a billion pieces.”
“My poor babies,” she wrote. “I hope they didn't suffer.”
The family is originally from Caldwell, Idaho, and moved to Manvel after Anthony Dean was assigned to Grand Forks Air Force Base where he worked as an RQ-4 Global Hawk crew chief, according to a release from the U.S. Air Force.
“Words are not enough during a time like this,” Maj. Eric Inkenbrandt, 69th Maintenance Squadron commander, said in a statement. “AJ’s family brought a light to our maintenance community, and this loss strikes each of us deeply. May their friends and family be granted the strength and serenity to get through this sorrowful time.”