Accident Database

Report ID# 3508

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • High Water

Accident Description

 Woman dies after rafting accident on Blackfoot River

A woman who tumbled from a raft Tuesday afternoon was pronounced dead after being pulled from the fast-moving Blackfoot River. The woman in her 60s, whose name was not released pending notification of family, was among a party of six people in an inflatable raft that was traveling downstream near the Paws Up resort at about 1:30 p.m. according to Missoula County Sheriff's Detective Jason Johnson. "They hit a big rapid," he said, and the woman and her grown daughter fell out. The daughter was able to swim to safety, he said, but "a short time later, witnesses saw someone in a blue vest floating face-down." Everyone on the raft wore life vests, Johnson said.

Sarah First, a front desk supervisor at Paws Up, said one of the resort's bell staff was driving to pick up a guest from one of the camps when she saw "people in distress" standing on the bank and called 9-1-1. "Our first responders on the property were the first on the scene ... ," she said. "They were the ones to pull her from the river." Several Paws Up staff members also are part of the Greenough-Potomac Quick Response Unit, said Paws Up CEO Tina Harlow. Johnson said the woman, an area resident, was taken from the river near the Ninemile Prairie boat launch. Emergency personnel performed CPR until the woman was taken by Life Flight to St. Patrick Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The Blackfoot in that area was running at almost five times its normal flow Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268,,


Montana News Woman killed in Blackfoot River rafting accident identified

Associated Press

Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MISSOULA - Missoula County officials have released the name of a 70-year-old woman who died in a rafting accident in the swollen Blackfoot River in western Montana. Capt. Rich Maricelli said Maccine Viola Smith of Gresham, Ore., was rafting with her daughter, 15-year-old granddaughter and three others on Tuesday afternoon when the raft hit a wave about 30 miles east of Missoula. Smith and her daughter went overboard. Her daughter was able to swim to safety. The coroner's initial investigation found Smith drowned. She was pulled from the water about three miles downstream. Maricelli says he doesn't think the group was doing anything reckless or irresponsible. The U.S. Geological Survey says the Blackfoot in the area was running almost five times its normal flow Tuesday.

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