Body of missing boater found on the Yellowstone

Julie Capdeville Freeman of Laurel was not wearing a life jacket
Thursday, June 9, 2022
Tragedy on the water
Tragedy on the water

Search and Rescue crews scour the Yellowstone River earlier this week for 44-year-old Julie Freeman of Laurel, who went missing when her raft overturned on the Stillwater River Sunday afternoon. Three other adults and one child in the raft were recovered safely. Air, water and ground crews from multiple agencies in multiple counties conducted a massive search for the missing 44-year-old woman. Photos by Crystal Arnold/SAR

The body of 44-year-old Julie Capdeville Freeman was recovered from the Yellowstone River on Wednesday, June 8, after going missing Sunday afternoon when a raft overturned on the Stillwater River.

Freeman, who was from Laurel, was found just west of Park City by the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, said Stillwater County Undersheriff Randy Smith. She was not wearing a life jacket and an autopsy has been scheduled, said Smith.

The announcement was made through a press release this morning.

The initial incident was reported at 1:11 p.m. on Sunday, June 5, when dispatch received a call of an overturned raft at the Beartooth Ranch on the Stillwater River, south of Columbus. A total of four adults and one child were in the raft, with all but the one woman recovered.

A massive search was launched that included multiple agencies and multiple counties as authorities believed that fast-flowing water from runoff quickly carried Freeman to the Yellowstone River.

At 5:54 p.m. Sunday, a 911 caller reported seeing what he believed was a body floating face down, 20 miles east of Columbus on the Yellowstone River, according to dispatch records.

The caller tried to swim towards it, but lost sight of it in a rapid, according to dispatch records.

The search was halted when darkness fell Sunday night and resumed Monday, using a jet boat, a drone and a helicopter. Water and weather conditions were deemed too dangerous on Tuesday to conduct a search, but Smith said a boat and helicopter resumed the search on Wednesday.

Assisting agencies have included the Columbus Police Department, Columbus Fire Rescue, Montana Highway Patrol, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Stillwater County Search and Rescue, Park City Fire Department, Laurel Police Department, Laurel Fire Department, Laurel Ambulance, Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, CHS Refinery, Billings Flying Service Flying Service, and US Water Rescue.

Authorities also caution people about recreating on the rivers during this time, as water levels are high due to runoff and debris is in the rivers. During the search on Sunday, crews came across two men who had swamped their jet boat on the Yellowstone River near Columbus.