Accident Database

Report ID# 2323

  • Equipment Trap
  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

Story available at

Tubing accident hospitalizes boy
By Gazette News Services KALISPELL

A teenage boy was in critical condition Friday after his inner tube flipped on the Stillwater River and he was pulled under a submerged tree limb. Andy Irvine, 15, was pulled unconscious from the river in Evergreen Thursday afternoon by rescuers and taken by ambulance to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

Two friends, Sam Kuhlin and Eric Brinton, had tried to rescue him, but the river's swift currents hindered their efforts to free Irvine from his life jacket, or the life jacket from the snag. The friends ran to a nearby construction worker for help and he called 911. Irvine had been submerged at least 15 minutes by the time rescuers arrived.

Flathead Search and Rescue Coordinator Jordan White said he had to cut the straps of the boy's life jacket to free him and pull him from the snag. He stressed that the accident should not deter people from wearing life jackets. "For the tiny percentage of times they might get someone in trouble, it's not worth the risk of not wearing one," White said. Irvine is the son of Hal Irvine, the chaplain for the Kalispell Fire Department. Members of the department were with the Irvine family at the hospital Friday.

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.



A 14-year-old boy who nearly drowned in the Stillwater River died at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday in the Kalispell Regional Medical Center's intensive-care unit.

Andy Irvine, the son of Kalispell Fire Department chaplain Hal Irvine, had remained in critical condition there since the Thursday afternoon tubing accident. He was underwater for between 11 and 15 minutes before rescuers could free him.

Irvine and two friends, Sam Kuhlin and Eric Brinton, were tubing down the Stillwater River near Riverside Drive in Evergreen when Irvine was sucked into an underwater snag after his inner tube flipped.

A swift current swept him close to the bank, where his life jacket got tangled in the branches of a dead log, holding him under the surface, according to reports.

By wearing life vests and going in a group, the boys seemed to be doing everything right, Flathead County Undersheriff Pete Wingert said Friday. "But it's a dangerous activity," he said. "The river is fast and there are hidden obstacles."

Kuhlin told police he tried to keep his friend's head above water but that Irvine soon lost consciousness.

After trying to free their friend, Brinton ran to a nearby construction site for help. A worker said he went to the river, saw Irvine trapped underwater, and called 911 on a cell phone. The first rescue units arrived just six minutes later. Flathead County Search and Rescue, the Evergreen Fire Department, and the Kalispell police and fire departments responded to the scene.

Irvine was unresponsive when Search and Rescue Coordinator Jordan White pulled him from the water, and paramedics immediately began working on him.

When rescuers were lowered into the river, they found the straps to the boy's life jacket pulled so tight by the current they had to be cut away.

Kuhlin and Brinton told police they had tubed the Stillwater River before, but that it was Irvine's first time.

Reporter Nicholas Ledden can be reached at 758-4441 or by e-mail at


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