Accident Database

Report ID# 3990

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water

Accident Description

Lake Stevens man dies in Montana canoeing accident

Associated Press

Monday, August 3, 2015

MISSOULA, Mont. — A 46-year-old Lake Stevens man has died after a weekend canoeing accident on the Clark Fork River in western Montana.A group of boaters in canoes overturned in turbulent water Sunday afternoon near Alberton Gorge. Everyone in the group was wearing life jackets, but one man was unable to make it to shore.

Frenchtown fire spokesman Mel Holtz says others on the water helped bring the man out of the water and a bystander began CPR. The coroner pronounced him dead at the scene.Mineral County officials identified the victim as Shane Dearden of Lake Stevens, Washington. The cause of his death is still being investigated.

 A Boy Scout group of 19 in approximately 9 open canoes and 1 rec. kayak came through Cliffside 1 (class III wavetrain). I believe every canoe, except one, capsized. Our group (1 raft, 1 IK, 1 hardshell kayak) and a group of 3-4 in one man fishing style catarafts began to help pull them to shore. With help, I pulled 2 canoes with their occupants holding on to shore with my kayak.

As I turned to to help with a solo swimmer i noticed a member of our group leaning over his Ik and holding the victim's head up out of the water. The swimmer was conscious moments before. He even reached to grab the back of the IK, as instructed. After reaching for the IK he lost consciousness. We got him to shore in approximately 30 seconds to a minute. I gave him several rescue breaths with no luck and we began CPR as he had no pulse. We continued CPR with lots of great help from the other groups on the water and the guided groups who began to show up within minutes.

Unfortunately we were unable to resuscitate Shane Dearden. A couple notes: 1. The Boy Scout were on a long multi-day trip from Missoula to Thompson Falls. 2. They were in over their heads with inadequate equipment. 3. Shane's PFD was loose and sliding up over his after he lost consciousness

The Missoulan

August 04, 2015

The incident kicked dozens of rafters into gear as they orchestrated an impromptu rescue operation and attempted to resuscitate the man. Anders Brooker, owner of the Runner's Edge in Missoula, was on his way down the river with a group of 22 employees when they spotted a commotion on the northeast bank. He said their river guides immediately pulled over and started taking turns performing CPR, along with several other Missoulians. 

"It was a group of Boy Scouts," Brooker said. "And they had trouble going down the rapids. They came through that set of rapids, but it was a gray area what happened next." 

He said by the time his group happened upon the canoeists, they had already been performing CPR on Dearden for five minutes.

Brooker said the group had about eight or nine canoes and the man may have had his two teenage sons with him. The group had planned to travel from Missoula to Thompson Falls and was on the second day of the journey. 

After they did CPR on the man, they took him across the river to the other bank. Brooker said they stripped a pontoon raft to its braces to support the man while carrying him up the embankment. 

"It took a lot of people to get him up there," Brooker said, heaping praise upon employees of the Montana River Guides company, who performed the bulk of the river rescue operation.

"There were a lot of people ... trying to do the right thing and trying to help out," he added. 

About two-thirds of the way up, Missoula EMTs were able to assist the rafters.The group then floated with the remaining canoeists to the next pullout, he said.  

When emergency responders arrived about 3 p.m, the man was put in an ambulance and EMTs continued to attempt to resuscitate him. Their efforts were unsuccessful, and the Mineral County coroner declared the man deceased at the scene.

The other canoeists were able to get to shore safely, according to the Frenchtown Fire Department. All of them, including Dearden, reportedly were wearing life jackets.

The NorthWest MedStar helicopter, as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Missoula Emergency Services also responded to the scene.

Assistant Scout Executive Duc Button for the Mount Baker Council of Boy Scouts in Washington confirmed the group was on a Scouting trip.

Button said they got the call about Dearden's death Monday morning, and he had few details to release as of afternoon.

"I am still waiting for some information to be submitted from the troop," Button said.

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