River search resumes
SATURDAY - FEB. 18, 2017 1:10 P.M.
Search crews are on scene at the Yellowstone River at Itch-Kep-Pe Park in Columbus as efforts have resumed to recover the body of a man believed to have fallen into the river last December.
Warm temperatures that have resulted in the break-up of large sections of ice on the river weather prompted Stillwater County Search and Rescue (SAR) to attempt to find the man's body. Authorities are still not releasing the man's name at the request of his family. He is believed to have fallen into the river on Dec. 12, 2016. Although the man had been living in the Columbus area at the time of his disappearance, he is originally from Billings.
On Friday, Feb. 17, crews drilled holes in the ice, submerged cameras and found what appeared to be a piece of clothing, said SAR Logistics Officer Crystal Arnold.
Also on Friday, cadaver dogs showed an interest in an area of ice believed to be where the man went into the river. Three cadaver dogs were brought in this morning and all three showed an interest in that same location, said Arnold.
Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is also being used today. Crews were working rapidly as the ice shelf being worked on was melting quickly.
"During the search efforts, one searcher fell into the water as the ice gave way. Because they were using proper safety equipment and procedures, the other rescuers were able to pull him to safety without injury," said Stillwater County Sheriff Cliff Brophy in a press release.
Arnold said crews will return to the scene Sunday morning, Feb. 19.
Authorities were alerted 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.
Also on scene today were Columbus Fire Rescue, county Disaster and Emergency Services and Columbus police.
Search crews from multiple counties converged on the scene upon the discovery and employed boats, cameras and a helicopter in the effort to find the man. Weather conditions at that time were brutal with below zero temperatures and heavy snow.
In addition to Stillwater County SAR, Columbus Fire Rescue and the Columbus Police Department, outside agencies have assisted including Absaroka Search Dogs, the Beartooth Mountain Search Dogs, Gallatin County SAR and Flathead County.