Columbia Falls Man Dies After Boat Flips on North Fork Flathead River

Ronald Newton, 62, was floating near Glacier Rim on western edge of Glacier National Park when his fishing pontoon capsized

By Andy Viano

A 62-year-old Columbia Falls man is dead after his boat flipped on the North Fork Flathead River near the Glacier Rim river access site on the western edge of Glacier National Park on Saturday.

According to a press release issued by the park, Ronald Newton was part of a group floating the river when two pontoon boats became stuck on a rock. Newton, in a third boat, was attempting to free the watercraft when his own pontoon flipped, sending him into the water and rendering him unconscious. A friend pulled Newton to a nearby gravel bar and several bystanders performed CPR.

Additional rescue personnel later continued CPR for more than an hour before Newton was pronounced dead. A cause of death has not been determined.

Newton was not wearing a personal flotation device or helmet at the time of the incident.

Several agencies responded to the scene in the early evening hours after park rangers received a report of CPR in progress at 5:42 p.m. Additional responders from North Valley Search and Rescue, A.L.E.R.T. air ambulance, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and Blankenship Rural Fire District assisted. The incident occurred approximately two miles north of Glacier Rim, near Fool Hen Rapids.

Newton’s death is the third on the Flathead River this summer. Dennis D. Bee died after his raft overturned in late June near Columbia Falls and Richard Ross drowned attempting to ferry across the Middle Fork of the river near Essex in mid-July. None of the men were wearing life jackets at the time of their deaths.

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