Accident Database

Report ID# 109400

  • PFD Not Worn or Present
  • Does not Apply
  • Inexperience
  • Solo Paddling
  • One Boat Trip

Accident Description

A hiker ferrying gear across the river

Flathead River Drowning Victim Identified


JUL 15, 2020

Flathead Beacon, Kalispell, MT  

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victim who drowned Sunday night while using a small raft to ferry gear across the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Essex.

Richard Ross, 40, of Oak Grove, Missouri, fell while crossing the river and was swept downstream at approximately 10 p.m. on July 12, according to Sheriff Brian Heino, and authorities discovered his body around noon the following day. He was not wearing a life preserver at the time of his death. 

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and North Valley Search and Rescue responded to a call at 3:47 a.m. on Monday, deploying ground search crews 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 later that morning.

According to Heino, Ross 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. After the accident occurred, 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.”

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