Authorities were able to locate a missing rafter with help from NBC Montana Tuesday night.
The Missoula County Sheriff's Office said they received a call shortly after 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, about a man who’d been missing for at least four hours after being swept away on a raft on the Bitterroot River.
Officials started their search at the Chief Looking Glass campground near Florence, searching the river for a man who was reportedly in a yellow raft without a life jacket. They called in help from life flight and the Florence Fire department, and crews were getting ready to put in search and rescue boats, when I spotted the missing man walking along Highway 93 toward Lolo.
I called 911 and members of the Missoula County Sherriff’s Office quickly showed up and confirmed it was the missing rafter, and he was able to reunite with his family.
Sgt. Jeremiah Petersen said this incident is a good reminder to folks to always have a plan when recreating on the water.
“He did not have a life jacket with him. He wasn't dressed in swimming attire; he is not familiar with the area. And so it's good to have a plan of what you're going to do, know the area,” said Petersen. “Cell phones are great because you can communicate with people; he left his cell phone at home.”
Petersen also wants to remind folks not to be afraid to call for help. He said some people think they’re overreacting or being pests by calling for search and rescue crews, but Petersen said the sooner you call the better.
The man in this incident did not report any injuries. He said his raft deflated and he was trying to walk to a phone to call for help.