News & Features

Man Dead After Slipping into Flathead River Near Essex

Victim was part of a group attempting to ford river late Sunday night; body was recovered Monday

A man is dead after he apparently slipped and disappeared downstream while attempting to ford the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Essex on Sunday night.

The unidentified man’s body was discovered around noon on July 13. His identification is being withheld pending family notification.

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and North Valley Search and Rescue responded to a call at 3:47 a.m. on Monday and those teams deployed along with Two Bear Air Rescue and Kalispell Regional Healthcare’s A.L.E.R.T. helicopter. After searching unsuccessfully in the dark, the operation resumed Monday morning.

The deceased man was part of a group that was attempting to cross the river at a remote spot north of Essex in order to set up camp, according to Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino. The accident occurred around 10 p.m. on Sunday but the remaining members of the group had to hike out to a residence in order to get cell phone service and call 911.

The death is the second on the Flathead River in less than a month. Dennis D. Bee died after his raft overturned in late June near Columbia Falls. Neither man was wearing a life preserver at the time of his death. The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office reminds those recreating to “please wear life jackets and be familiar with changing river conditions.”