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5 confirmed and 2 presumed drownings across Montana in June

drownings confirmed june 2024
drownings presumed
Posted at 1:43 PM, Jul 01, 2024

GREAT FALLS — In the last three weeks, there have been five confirmed drownings and two more which are presumed (scroll down). With this in mind, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has safety tips for anyone venturing out on to the rivers and lakes of Montana.

First and foremost, life-jackets are everyone’s best friend. They are required on all watercraft by law - one for each passenger on the vessel. Children up to the age of 11 must have one on at all times while on a boat. Adults should wear them at all times as well, but if you choose not to, make sure one is readily available and can be accessed in seconds.

Be courteous of others and your surroundings. The same DUI laws apply to drinking and driving a boat.

Make sure electronics such as headlights are working on your boat before taking it out into the open.

The water is still very cold in July, and can kill in mere minutes. Keep an eye on the weather for storms or high winds, which can knock people overboard. If you become stranded, make sure you’re prepared by equipping a signaling device onboard, such as a flare.

Waterways can change drastically from from spring to summer. Water levels will shrink, leaving previously covered debris exposed. Jutting rocks, branches, and other environmental hazards can be harmful to swimmers, and maritime equipment.

LINCOLN COUNTY: The body of a kayaker who was reported missing near Kootenai Falls in the Libby area last week has been recovered. Jessica Prado was reported missing in the river at about 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26, 2024. Prado and Jared Satterlund were in a two-person kayak that capsized just below China Rapids. Prado's body was found and recovered from the Kootenai River at around 8:45 a.m. on Sunday, June 30.

LEWIS & CLARK COUNTY: A man who drowned in the Missouri River near Craig on June 20 has been identified as 71-year old Danial Francis Gard. Sheriff Leo Dutton said on Tuesday that Gard reportedly went overboard trying to retrieve an oar that went into the water. Friends were able to pull him back aboard and he was taken to the boat launch in Craig, but efforts to revive Gard were not successful.

GLACIER COUNTY: The woman who drowned near St. Mary Falls on the east side of Glacier National Park on Sunday, June 23 has been identified as 26-year-old Gillian Tones from North Apollo, Pennsylvania. Witnesses said Tones slipped on wet, slick rocks and fell into Virginia Creek between St. Mary and Virginia Falls, about 200 yards above the trail bridge. Tones was quickly swept up by the cold, fast moving water and went over a series of smaller waterfalls, then was pinned underwater by a log for several minutes before efforts by other park visitors led to pulling her from the river.

drownings confirmed june 2024
Confirmed drownings in Montana in June 2024

RAVALLI COUNTY: A 76-year-old man died after being thrown from a raft into the Bitterroot River on Monday, June 24. Sheriff Steve Holton says Roger Lee Booth of Charleston, West Virginia, drowned in the incident, which happened near Woodside Cutoff just east of Corvallis in western Montana. The accident happened when a raft that Booth was fishing from hit a bridge support pillar and overturned, throwing the three people into the river, according to a news release. Sheriff Holton says first responders reached the victim and provided emergency medical care, but Booth died at the scene. The two other men thrown from the raft were able to make it to shore safely.

FLATHEAD COUNTY: A fugitive drowned last week while running from law enforcement officers in Flathead County. Steven Jeffrey O’Shields of Franklin, North Carolina, had felony warrants for his arrest on several charges including burglary, theft of services, and sexual battery against a child, according to a news release. Law enforcement received a tip on June 21 that O’Shields was on foot at the Big Creek Campground in the North Fork area. Deputies responded to the area and saw O’Shields walking south on the North Fork Road, near mile marker 11.O’Shields ran into the woods heading toward the Flathead River. Deputies saw O’Shields wading into the river and then struggling to stay above water. Officers couldn’t reach O’Shields, who was last seen going around a bend just south of the Glacier Rim. A search continued for O’Shields whose body was eventually spotted by a Two Bear Air helicopter under the water near the Blankenship Bridge. North Valley Search & Rescue crews recovered O’Shields’s body, which was taken to the Montana State Lab in Missoula for autopsy.

In addition to the five confirmed drownings, authorities are continuing to search for two people who are presumed to have drowned within the last two weeks.

TOOLE COUNTY: The search for Great Falls teen Kendall Danna continues at Lake Elwell as of Sunday, June 30, 2024. Kendall was one of four people who was paddle-boarding at the lake on the afternoon of Saturday, June 16. As they were crossing the lake, the weather got bad, resulting in waves up to five feet high and winds gusting to 40 miles per hour. Three of the people made it to safety or were later rescued by first-responders, but Kendall has not yet been found. The Toole County Sheriff's Office said in a news release: "Statements made during interviews indicate that Kendall had lost contact with an inflatable paddle-board and was last seen submerging in the water." On Sunday, June 30, the Toole County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that numerous agencies and people are continuing the search, but due to "the weather of high winds and rain" in recent days, the "search techniques and methods have been challenging."

drownings presumed
Presumed drownings in Montana (June 2024)

LAKE COUNTY: The search for a boater in trouble on Flathead Lake continues. Lake County Sheriff Don Bell has identified the missing person as 34-year-old Chad Hansen from Missoula. He was last seen in the area north of Little Bull Island and south of Safety Bay. Hansen became separated from his boat and witnesses who tried to help him weren’t able to. Based on the accounts gathered from witnesses it is believed that he has died of drowning, a news release states.