Rescue Turns into Recovery Effort for Teen on Yellowstone River

The search for James Anderson, 15, after his family's boat capsized near Livingston led to a two-day rescue effort that included nearly 150 people

By Associated Press

LIVINGSTON — Searchers are presuming that a second family member has died after their boat collided with a bridge pylon and capsized in Montana’s Yellowstone River, authorities said Monday.

The search for James Anderson, 15, has shifted from a rescue operation to an effort to find and recover his body, said Park County sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Bichler.

Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Anderson from neighboring Gallatin County, his wife Angie, son James, a daughter and a family friend were floating the river on a drift boat Friday night when it struck the U.S. Highway 89 bridge in Livingston and capsized, authorities said.

Jim Anderson, his daughter and the friend were able to make it to shore safely, but Angie died and James couldn’t be found.

Bichler said there are strong hydraulics in that portion of the river that pull boats toward the pylon, and he called it a tragic accident.

“It’s beautiful and we love it and we spend a lot of time on it, but it’s dangerous,” Bichler said of the Yellowstone River. “You can do everything right and still have tragedy strike on the river. It’s swift-moving water, things can happen. It’s not anybody’s fault.”

The two-day rescue effort included nearly 150 people searching in the water, along the shoreline and from the air. A stretch of the river from Livingston to Columbus that had been closed to boat traffic over the weekend reopened Sunday night.

Five counties and state officials sent search and rescue crews that included boats, divers, search dogs and a helicopter. The search continued after dark using thermal cameras.

The scaled-back search for the boy’s body included 25 to 30 people on Monday, Bichler said.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said Jim Anderson thanked the rescuers for their efforts.

“Family is everything, it’s why we do what we do and it’s also why it hurts that much more when it’s our family,” Gootkin said in a statement. “We hurt for Jim and his family. They have a long, difficult road ahead but they are not alone. We will help and support them no matter what they need or how long it takes.”

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