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Marijuana a factor in fatal crash

| April 6, 2005 12:00 AM

Marijuana was a factor in a Feb. 25 crash on U.S. Highway 2 that killed a Troy High School teacher and seriously injured a California couple, according to information released by the Montana Highway Patrol.

A toxicology report from the state crime lab in Missoula indicated that Eric Groff, 26, of Troy, was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident, said Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Duane Bowers.

The report showed high levels of the chemical THC - the active ingredient in marijuana - in Groff's bloodstream. The levels indicated Groff had used the drug a short time before the accident, Bowers said.

"This was definitely a factor in the crash," Bowers said.

Groff died instantly after losing control of his pickup truck on a patch of black ice in a shaded area near mile marker 27 and crossing the center line, colliding with another pickup truck.

The occupants of the other truck, Roger Skaggs, 56, and Margaret Skaggs, 55, of Tehachapi, Calif., were trapped in their vehicle due to the force of the impact and had to be extricated by emergency responders. Both suffered serious injuries and were taken by ambulance to St. John's Lutheran Hospital and later transferred to Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane.

The use of marijuana would have slowed Groff's reaction time and may have dulled his perception of the icy conditions, Bowers said.

"It is probably just as bad, if not worse, as being under the influence of alcohol," Bowers said.

Groff taught 10th-grade English at Troy High School. He had moved to Troy from California, where he had received a bachelor's degree in American literature from Stanford University and a master's degree in the same field from San Diego State University.