Motel Owner Faces Endangerment Charge

By Beacon Staff

KALISPELL (AP) – The owner of a motel where a guest spent hours outside with his foot caught in an abandoned septic tank, suffering severe frostbite and eventually losing parts of two limbs, faces a misdemeanor charge.

Larry Cummings, 69, owner of the White Birch Motel and RV Park, has been charged with negligent endangerment in the New Year’s Eve incident.

The victim, Jason Bell, 23, fell into a trench and broke through an old septic tank on the property at 9 or 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, trapping his foot, the Flathead County attorney’s office said.

Bell was found at about 2:30 a.m. by two other motel residents who were taking out garbage. Paramedics who freed him found him unresponsive and suffering from exposure.

He was rushed to the Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where doctors were forced to amputate one of his arms at the elbow and one of his legs at the knee, investigators said.

Authorities said Cummings dug the trench a few weeks earlier after deciding to remove an old septic system. The trench was 6 feet deep in places, and portions of it may have been obscured by snow.