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8 confirmed drownings and 1 presumed across Montana within 3 weeks

Drowning - Generic
Posted at 7:04 PM, Jul 07, 2024

GREAT FALLS — There have been eight confirmed drownings and one presumed drowning across Montana within the last three weeks.

FLATHEAD COUNTY: Two men drowned in separate incidents in Glacier National Park on Saturday, July 6, 2024. Park officials said a 26-year old man from India was hiking past the gorge on Avalanche Lake Trail when he went into Avalanche Creek at about 8:30 a.m. Witnesses saw him go into the creek, go underwater, and resurface briefly before being swept up by the current and into the gorge. Park campground staff were on the scene almost immediately, followed by law enforcement rangers at about 9 a.m. An ALERT helicopter conducted aerial searches of the creek and more than 10 rangers scoured the area, but the person has not yet been found and is presumed dead. Rangers believe the body is caught underwater in the gorge. Due to poor visibility and hazardous conditions, ongoing search efforts will be scaled down and rangers are monitoring the area. The young man was living and working in California and on vacation with friends.

Two men drowned in separate incidents in Glacier National Park

Later on Saturday, a 28-year old man from Nepal was swimming with friends in Lake McDonald near Sprague Creek Campground. According to friends, he was an inexperienced swimmer. He was about 30 yards out when he started to struggle, went underwater, and never resurfaced. Dispatch received a call at about 6:25 p.m. and rangers were on the scene by about 6:50 p.m. ALERT helicopter and Three Rivers ambulance responded but stood down when park rangers were able to determine the location of the body just offshore in about 35 to 40 feet underwater. The Flathead County Sheriff’s dive team responded and recovered the body at about 8:20 p.m. The man was living and working in Portland, Oregon and on vacation with friends.

No other details have been released at this point, including whether the two men were wearing personal flotation devices. The names of the two victims have not yet been released. Park officials have contacted the Nepal and India consulates for assistance in contacting next of kin. We will update you if we get more information.

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.

LAKE COUNTY: The body of a boater from Missoula who was reported missing on Flathead Lake last week has been found. Lake County Sheriff Don Bell says divers from Missoula and Flathead counties recovered the body of Chad Hansen at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3rd, just north of the Narrows. Hansen, 36 years old, was reported missing shortly before 9:45 p.m. on Friday, June 28, when witnesses reported seeing him become separated from his boat. Sheriff Bell says Hansen’s body was recovered from the area where he had been reported missing in 75 feet of water. His body has been taken to the Montana State Medical Examiner’s Office in Missoula so that an autopsy can be performed. Search and Rescue teams from Flathead, Missoula, and Kootenai County in Idaho had been helping in the search for Hansen.

TOOLE COUNTY: In addition to the confirmed drownings, authorities are continuing to search for Great Falls teen Kendall Danna at Lake Elwell. 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."

drownings presumed
Presumed drownings in Montana (June 2024)