A 50-year-old Lethbridge, Alberta, man drowned Tuesday after capsizing in the Spruce Park Rapids on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
James Fredrick Wilson was floating the river in an inflatable kayak with a group of other kayakers when he capsized on some rocks, according to a news release from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office. Wilson was wedged in the rocks, held under by the force of the water. Members of his party were able to free him and performed CPR for about half an hour, but could not revive him.
Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said the group left the body on the shore and made it out of the area to contact emergency responders. “I’m sure it took them several hours to get out,” Curry said. “They had to continue their float out and get to their car, and even at their car they didn’t have cell service, so they had to drive until they got cell service.” They finally reached the West Glacier area and were able to make the call at 4:45 p.m. The river accident occurred in the Great Bear Wilderness near the southern end of Glacier National Park. Wilson’s body was recovered Tuesday evening with the assistance of Red Eagle Helicopters.
Curry said Wilson had friends who live in the area and there were locals on the river trip. Brian Patterson, a friend of Wilson’s from Lethbridge, said Wilson owned his own business and, as an arborist, was known as “Jimmy Scissorhands.” “He was a community-minded person who did more than his share of volunteering and giving,” Patterson said. “He was a lifelong member of the Canadian Ski Patrol and an accomplished athlete, and he loved to play old-time hockey and tennis. He will be remembered with love by many.” Patterson and Wilson were members of the Local Fraternal Order of Eagles 2100, of which Wilson was vice president.
Spruce Park is a several-mile-long stretch of water laced with sinkholes, standing waves, whirlpools and hundreds of boulders. This area, depending on river flow, sometimes produces Class V rapids, considered the most difficult to navigate. Wilson’s group was floating from Granite Creek to Bear Creek along the Middle Fork