The man who died in the Smith River south of Great Falls on Monday has been identified as Chad Newbreast.
Newbreast, 44 years old, was from Billings, according to Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards.
Three men were on the river with two boats near the Eden Bridge. The Smith River was running high and fast at the time of the incident, according to Edwards.
The preliminary investigation indicates that a two-man boat rounded a corner on the river and hit a large rock, causing the boat to capsize.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said that Newbreast became pinned on a rock midstream, witnesses at the scene said.
Newbreast was not able to make it out of the river and died, according to Edwards. The cause of his death has not yet been determined.
The other man went into the river several times to try and rescue Newbreast, but the water was too cold and moving too fast for him to effectively function after several attempts at rescue.
Edwards says that life-vests were available but were not being used.
Deputies from the Sheriff’s Office, Search and Rescue, and Ulm Fire were able to recover the body.
Responding agencies included Sheriff’s Office, Ulm Fire, Ulm QRU, MT FWP, Cascade County Search and Rescue, and Mercy Flight.
Eden Bridge is the only take-out point following a nearly 60-mile stretch of the Smith River that flows through a remote canyon. That section of the the river is only open to permitted floaters and guides; permits are awarded annually via a lottery drawing conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
FWP says that rivers throughout Montana this year are running high from melting snow and rain. That water is powerful and cold, even on a hot, sunny day.
At Eden Bridge, the Smith was flowing almost 1,700 cubic feet per second at the time of the accident. The long-term average is about 950 cfs. Water temperature was in the low 50s. A person without a life jacket can drown in a matter of minutes when falling into cold water. Everyone in a boat or even near rapidly flowing water should wear a well-fitted Personal Flotation Device or life jacket.
Great Falls Gazette
Smith drowning highlights dangers of high-flowing rivers
A man who drowned Monday while floating the Smith River south of Great Falls became pinned under the boat after it capsized following a collision with a rock, according to the Cascade County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Bob Edwards on Tuesday identified the victim as Chad Newbreast, a 44-year-old Billings-area resident.
Newbreast and another man, whose name was not released, were in a drift boat when it struck a rock broadside 10 miles south of Ulm and capsized, Edwards said.
Newbreast was pinned beneath the boat, which became stuck on a rock, the Sheriff's Office said. The other man was able to make it to shore and went into the river several times in attempts and rescue Newbreast, Edwards said. "The water was too cold and moving too fast for the male to effectively function after several attempts at the rescue," the Sheriff's Office said. Life vests were available but not in use.
Another boat in the area traveled over 1 ½ miles to obtain cell service to make the 9-1-1 call, Edwards said.
The crash occurred about eight miles upstream of the Eden Bridge take out, which is the conclusion of a 59-mile Smith River trip that begins upstream at Camp Baker north of White Sulphur Springs.
"It's a tragedy," said Bruce Auchly, a spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which also responded to the incident. "A guy drowns on the Smith River near the take-out point. It gives you respect for water any time of year, but especially now when rivers are high and water is cold."
Rivers throughout Montana are running high from melting snow and rain this spring. At Eden Bridge, the Smith was flowing almost 1,700 cubic feet per second at the time of the accident, Auchly said. The long-term average is about 950 cfs.
This year, FWP issued 1,300 Smith River float permits out of 10,500 applications. The popular float is a semi-wilderness experience.
"Andy everyone who launches is given a talk by river rangers at Camp Baker about the hazards that could happen on the Smith," Auchly said. "And those, depending on the time of the year, could be water-based hazards, bears, how to store your food properly."
Water temperature is in the low 50s. "That's cold water," Auchly said. A person without a life jacket can drown in a matter of minutes when falling into cold water, Auchly said. Everyone in a boat or even near rapidly flowing water should wear a well-fitted personal flotation device or life jacket, he said.