BILLINGS, Mont. — A route relief driver for Big Sky Linen Supply was killed Sept. 19 when the step van he was driving collided with a pickup truck and overturned, pinning him beneath his vehicle, according to the Montana Highway Patrol.
Matthew “Matt” Johnson, 28, had one more stop to make when the accident occurred around 2 p.m., says Rob Kline, president of Big Sky Linen Supply. The Highway Patrol says Johnson was traveling north in west Billings and failed to stop at a stop sign when the van struck the westbound pickup on the driver’s side door. The impact spun the step van, and Johnson – who was not wearing a seat belt – was ejected as the vehicle flipped onto its passenger side. The other driver was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment.
Johnson, whom Kline described as a “free spirit” and a “gregarious young man,” joined Big Sky as a washroom technician in July 2006 and had only recently taken the new position as relief driver. The fatal accident occurred on only his second day of running a vacation route.
Johnson was well known throughout the company, Kline says, and Big Sky’s employees took the news of his death hard.
“We gathered all the plant people in the break room and announced that there had been an accident,” Kline says. “We decided to send the workers home. We closed the plant for Matt’s funeral.
“Everyone understands this was an accident. But it’s going to take a while for this (feeling) to go away, if it does go away.”
Kline says he’s been “absolutely amazed” by the support of Big Sky’s customers and even by other laundries in the region. Johnson had worked for Alsco in Billings before coming to Big Sky, Kline adds.
Kline wonders about the safety of the intersection where Johnson was killed, noting that he’s the third person to be killed in a traffic accident in that viaduct area in a year.
Surviving Johnson are his wife, four children, his parents, two brothers and his paternal grandparents. Memorials may be made to the United Bank of Laurel, P.O. Box 457, Laurel, MT 59044.