July 10, 2012
By CHELSI MOY of the Missoulian
A Kalispell man died Sunday while rafting through the Alberton Gorge, a popular whitewater stretch of the Clark Fork River west of Missoula. Neil Albright, 49, was thrown out of the raft that he was oaring when the boat tipped sideways going through Tumbleweed rapid. Albright, who was described as an experienced boater, was not wearing his life vest at the time of the accident, said Mineral County Sheriff Ernie Ornel. Albright was rafting with one other person, who was wearing a life jacket. Both men were tossed out of the boat in the whitewater. The other man, sitting at the front of the boat, managed to grab the rope attached to the raft. The accident occurred around 3:20 p.m. The river was packed with boaters and kayakers at the time, the sheriff said. By the time rescuers arrived on scene, witnesses had been administering CPR for some time, Ornel said. The incident occurred in a steep, cliff area and law enforcement had a challenging time accessing the river. Life Flight out of Missoula managed to land on a rocky outcropping near the Clark Fork River. Albright was taken to St. Patrick Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Frenchtown Rural Fire Department, Mineral County Sheriff’s Office, Life Flight and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks all responded to the call. The body was taken to the state crime lab for an autopsy, which is why Ornel is not characterizing the death as a drowning at this time. Ornel reminded boaters to take extra precautions on the river and wear their life jackets.