Accident Database

Report ID# 3613

  • Pinned in Boat Against Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description


Montana State student dies kayaking on Gallatin River

JUNE 07, 2012 11:59 AM  •  

BOZEMAN — Gallatin County officials say a 21-year-old Montana State University student has died in a kayaking accident on the Gallatin River. Sheriff Brian Gootkin said Harold Vaughan of Madison County died Wednesday evening.Gootkin says Vaughan's kayaking partner called 911 at about 5:30 p.m. to report Vaughan was upside down in his kayak headed down river from the mouth of the Gallatin Canyon. Search and rescue crews found Vaughan's kayak wedged upside down in a log jam. Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. He was wearing a lift vest, but not a helmet.

Gootkin says the Gallatin River from the mouth of the canyon north is especially dangerous because of the number and size of log jams and hidden hazards.


MSU student dies while kayaking in the Gallatin River

Harold Vaughan; Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012

JODI HAUSEN, Chronicle Staff Writer A Montana State University student who died kayaking was described as a hardworking outdoorsman who always had a positive attitude and a smile on his face. Harold Vaughan, 21, of McAllister, drowned Wednesday in the Gallatin River, Gallatin County Undersheriff Dan Springer said. Around 5:30 p.m. Vaughan's boat flipped near the mouth of the canyon, and his paddling partner called 911, officials said.

Rescuers tried to resuscitate Vaughan after finding him in the overturned kayak in a logjam near Gallatin Gateway. Vaughan was a sophomore finance major at MSU. His father, Allen Vaughan, said his son "was a good boy" and had lots of friends. The two had recently gone fly fishing together during spring break. "He took care of me," Allen said. "He tied my fly. I broke a fly and he tied another. I'm 59 and don't get around as well as I used to. I was stumbling going down to the river, so he grabbed my hand and walked me down to the water. "And I thought, 'Well, there's the next generation,'" he said. "We had a wonderful time fishing together."

Harold loved riding four-wheelers "and was good at getting it unstuck once he got it there," said his younger brother, Skyler. Harold played offensive and defensive lineman for the Ennis Mustangs football team. His coach, Jay Fredrickson, called Harold "a fine, young Christian." "The way he conducted himself in school and in the classroom … He always had a huge smile on his face. Never once did I hear him speak poorly about anybody," he said. Robert Nelson, a family friend, said Harold "loved Jesus and lived for him." Harold also was a hard worker. "He was not a fan of school, but he would never give up," Nelson said. "He was always ready to take on a challenge and stay positive."

Frederickson said Harold wasn't the best football talent, but he worked hard at it. "I believe strongly, without a doubt, that Harold is in heaven," he added. "The place he's in right now is better than what we have right here. If there's a silver lining in this tragedy, it's that I know where Harold is." Harold, an inexperienced paddler, was wearing a life vest but no helmet when he died, Springer said. Harold and his friend had been practicing rolls not far upstream from where his boat got stuck. His partner told rescuers Harold had rolled his boat successfully at least once but failed to roll back up on another attempt and floated downstream.

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