Farrell, of Washington state, was spending the summer with her father in Missoula.The girl and others in the group ended up in the water and several were caught in the strong currents behind the dam, said Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman.Officials say there were several adults and children in the boat. All were wearing flotation devices.
Emergency crews were dispatched at 2:46 p.m.Members of the Corvallis Fire Department and QRU, Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office, Ravalli County Search and Rescue, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks responded to the call. When they arrived, CPR was already being performed on Farrell on a gravel bar downstream from the diversion dam, Hoffman said.
The girl was transported via Life Flight to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, where she died. There were no other injuries reported.
Officials are strongly advising boaters who float this stretch of the river to portage around the dam and not attempt to float over it. The diversion dam is a hazard for boats. Signs are posted upriver that urge caution and portage.
FWP Warden Capt. Joe Jaquith said the recommendation is always to portage around irrigation diversion dams. Irrigation diversion dams like this one create a dangerous “boil” zone immediately behind the structure that can pull a boat back into the dam, where it can fill with water and be swamped, he said. Even if the diversion dams don’t a have boil zone, many were made with concrete and there is the potential to hit exposed rebar. “Our recommendation is to always portage around them,” he said.
This dam, which supplies water to the Supply Ditch, is located around a corner. Jaquith said FWP made the decision two years ago to post signs to warn people of the danger following a couple of minor incidents The river at this juncture has been migrating toward the east for the past couple of years. Due to changes in the water’s flow this year, the west channel of this stretch of river no longer has enough water for boat travel. All floaters downstream of Woodside FAS must travel in the channel containing the diversion dam.
Hoffman said there are signs posted at the state fishing access sites warning of downstream diversion dam hazards. “People need to take the time to stop and look at them,” Hoffman said. “This river is more dangerous than it looks.”