Body recovered from river
More than two months after going missing, the body of a man believed to have fallen into the Yellowstone River has apparently been recovered.
Stillwater County Search and Rescue (SAR) recovered a man's body today, Feb. 19, at 10:30 a.m. between upper and lower Itch-Kep-Pe Park in Columbus. Footprints leading to the river at the time of the disappearance and multiple indications by multiple cadaver dogs at that same location prompted authorities to concentrate their efforts in that spot. The body was about a half mile downstream from that point.
An autopsy will be conducted this week to determine a cause of death, as well as confirm the identity, according to a press release from Sheriff Cliff Brophy.
"The identity of the decedent will not be released until positive identification is confirmed. Identification may take several weeks. Identification will can be done by dental records, medical records or DNA," Brophy said in the release.
The man had been living in the Columbus area at the time of his disappearance, but he is originally from Billings. Brophy said his family was notified shortly after the body was found today.
The man is believed to have fallen into the river on Dec. 12, 2016. Authorities were alerted to a possible problem on Dec. 13, 2016, when the man’s bicycle was found parked at the bridge and his footprints were found going down to the river but not leading back out. When people in the area where questioned, they reported hearing a possible yell or scream the night before around 6 p.m.
Search crews from multiple counties converged on the scene upon the discovery and employed boats, cameras, ground penetrating radar, cadaver dogs and a helicopter in the effort to find the man. Weather conditions at the time of the disappearance were brutal with below zero temperatures and heavy snow.
Searchers had been working in-between storm systems until last weekend, when warmer temperatures began cause ice break-up. During operations on Saturday, one searcher fell into the river when an ice-shelf suddenly broke off. The searcher was not injured and was quickly pulled back into shore as he was wearing a safety rope.
The Stillwater County Search and Rescue team, along with Absaroka Search Dogs, Western Montana Search Dogs, Columbus Fire Rescue, Gallatin County Search and Rescue, Flathead County, Two Bear Air and a local pilot have assisted in the search.