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.