Search and Rescue gets a new boat, thanks to help from Sibanye-Stillwater

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, September 5, 2019
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Photo by Crystal Arnold
            SAR crews test the new boat.

Thanks in part to the Sibanye-Stillwater company, local Search and Rescue (SAR) crews now have a new tool to use in the dozens of water rescues it responds to every year.

A new SJX jet boat has been added to the SAR’s stable of resources, thanks to financial help from Sibanye-Stillwater. Built in Idaho, the boat is used by several agencies in western Montana and has a good reputation, said Stillwater County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Skylar Steele.

“Some of the key advantages of the new boat are that it can run in less water (advertised at three inches), the hull is more open to accommodate more technical rescue scenarios, and it is smaller, which increases maneuverability, including the degree of accuracy operators can ‘place’ the boat in a specific area,” said Deputy Steele, adding that SAR conducted extensive research prior to making the purchase.

The new boat also gives SAR access to areas on the river that were previously inaccessible. Water rescues are common for SAR. Without the financial help provided by Sibanye-Stillwater, the purchase would not have been possible.

For that, the sheriff’s office is more than grateful, said Deputy Steele.

“The old boat is still available and part of the fleet, which offers redundancy in the technical and challenging rescues we are sometimes faced with on the rivers – which is important to ensure a response is readily available,” said Deputy Steele.


SAR is available for missions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It averages 35 calls every year, including missing persons, lost hikers in the backcountry and water emergencies on the rivers, lakes and streams within the county. Emergency calls on waterways are often tense and ever evolving, which requires state of the art equipment, said Deputy Steele.

SAR teams specialize in swift-water rescues, technical rope rescue, urban search, wilderness search, incident command, K9 search, and body recovery.

“The diversity of terrain in Stillwater County requires a small group to encompass many specialties,” said Deputy Steele.


SAR is an all-volunteer organization that is run under the authority of the sheriff’s office. It is continually looking for motivated individuals to join the team in any capacity. Free trainings are provided and in turn, volunteers have the opportunity to give back to the community.

To learn more about Still-water County SAR, contact Chief Deputy Steele at, or call 322-5326. SAR is also on the web at


SAR receives a limited budget each year from the county to help cover operating expenses. When new equipment or resources are needed, private donors are often sought to help.

Anyone interested in contributing financially to SAR can send checks payable to Stillwater County Search and Rescue and send to P.O. Box 729, Columbus, MT 59019.