Climbing Accident Claims Search and Rescue Member

(Gallatin and Park County Mont.)  With a heavy heart, Sheriff Brian Gootkin and Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue share that our friend and teammate Travis Swanson lost his life in a climbing accident yesterday on Mount Cowen in Park County. Travis was climbing with fellow SAR members Jackson Negri and Will Hitchcock when rockfall swept Will and Travis downslope. Jackson contacted Park County Sheriff’s Office and Gallatin County SAR teammates, who responded with specialized alpine rescue resources. With Jackson’s help, they were able to rescue Will and recover Travis.  Will is currently at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings with stable injuries.

All three climbers were extricated by GCSAR with able assistance from Park County. The highly complex rescue was executed in a skilled and efficient manner that would have made Travis proud. Travis was a significant contributor to the Alpine and Helicopter rescue teams and we owe a part of the team’s performance to the many efforts that he put into Search & Rescue. He loved spending time with friends doing things that allowed him  to excel at saving others. He demonstrated the highest level of teamwork and commitment. When good days went bad, Travis was always there to help his community.

We thank Park County for allowing us the privilege of being able to recover one of our own. We also thank Park County Sheriff, Search and Rescue, Park County Rural Fire, and Livingston Fire and Rescue for their response.

Dahl’s Funeral Home is organizing memorial arrangements.


Media Contact: Sheriff Brian Gootkin 582-2125

Photographs courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff

Travis Swanson, by Speed/Coaching + Creative

Travis Swanson during a rescue operation on Granite Peak in 2016.

Weekend Search and Rescue Activity

(Gallatin County, Mont.) The last weekend in June saw 80 Search and Rescue Volunteers spend 285 hours on three incidents. The first incident was Saturday evening when Sheriff’s Search and Rescue and Central Valley Fire were dispatched to an injured hiker in the Truman Gulch area.  The 27-year-old Bozeman woman was hiking with her fiancé and dog when she injured her knee.  When she could go no further her fiancé carried her. The terrain eventually became so steep that they could no longer make progress and he went to find help. Rescuers used a wheeled stretcher and rope belays to bring her down to a waiting Central Valley Ambulance, which took her to the hospital.  Sunday afternoon found SAR on the Gallatin River near Gateway, using boats and tracking skills to help Sheriff’s Detectives on a case. Later Sunday evening, three women and their dog had rafted from Spanish Creek past Gallatin Gateway when their raft crashed, spitting two of them and the dog out onto an island that they could not get off and the third onto shore.  Rescuers had limited access to the area and fading daylight but with the help of a landowner were able to get the women and dog back to safety. No injuries were reported. Sheriff Gootkin thanks all the dedicated volunteers who took time from their weekend to help keep people safe and support the active, outdoor lifestyle this community values.


Photo of rescue in Truman courtesy of the Sheriff’s Office

A Message from the Sheriff to Forrest Fenn Treasure Hunters

(Gallatin County, Mont.) In the last couple years, two people have died, two have been rescued near death, several have had run-ins with local and federal law enforcement, and one told his wife today he was injured but not where he was. The common denominator is that these people were all near Yellowstone National Park and they were all looking for the Forrest Fenn treasure. Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin has a message for treasure hunters: “You must know that this country is unforgiving if you don’t give it the respect it deserves. Let someone know where you are going – exactly, not some vague geographic area to keep your secret safe – and when you expect to return. Be prepared for the changing weather and wilderness conditions. Many areas have no cell phone service. Mountain streams and rivers are especially dangerous. Bears, snakes, and gravity are found in abundance in our corner of the world. We encourage everyone to vigorously pursue their outdoor passions, but think like a local. Before you go after the treasure, consider your level of skill, preparation and knowledge of the area.  Consider the volunteer hours spent searching if you need to be rescued, and the anxiety of those left at home.”

Climbing Rescue in Hyalite Canyon

(Gallatin County, Mont.) Saturday evening at 6:30 Sheriff’s Search and Rescue with Hyalite Fire Department, AMR Ambulance, Reach Air Ambulance and Central Helicopters responded to Practice Rock in Hyalite Canyon for an injured climber.  The 23 year old man from Kalispell suffered a significant head injury when he fell while climbing.  Rescuers from the Alpine Team and Posse along with some very proficient flying from Central Helicopters were able to evacuate the man to medical care in about an hour.  Sheriff Gootkin said,”This was a technically difficult rescue.  We are grateful for the skill of our search and rescue volunteers and the help from other agencies.  It is not easy to get an injured person out of that area but the SAR Team is really good at what they do.”

photo courtesy of the Sheriff’s Office

Water Rescue on the Gallatin

(Gallatin County, Mont.)

Monday at 8:50 pm, Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to a water rescue on the Gallatin River between Axtell Anceny Rd and Norris Rd.  A local Magenta Road resident heard what he thought was screaming coming from the river behind his home.  He investigated and found a person stuck under a cut bank on the opposite side of the river.  The 54-year-old woman was part of a group that crashed two rafts and a kayak about an hour earlier.  As more information about boats floating in the river came in, the rescue expanded into a simultaneous search for further victims.  Life Flight helicopter and local landowners assisted search and rescue personnel in the effort.

The woman was stuck next to the water below an actively eroding cut bank. A Search and Rescue boat crew made the rescue and transported her across the river where she was carried to a waiting AMR ambulance and Gateway Fire Fighters.  She was so hypothermic that she could not give responders much specific information about what had happened and how many people were involved.  The other two men and a dog in her group were  located safely on shore further up the river by Search and Rescue personnel about 10:00.  The group was reunited before she was transported to Bozeman Health Hospital by the AMR ambulance.

Sheriff Gootkin would like to remind residents and visitors that the spring run-off makes local rivers and streams extremely hazardous.  The stretch of the Gallatin from the mouth of Gallatin Canyon to Manhattan is full of debris and hazards and not recommended for recreational boating, especially during spring run off.  People that know the river say that this stretch of river is never worth the risk for boating.  In addition if you lose your boat please contact the Sheriff’s Office (582-2100) as soon as you can.  The boat will be reported by someone and cause Deputies and SAR volunteers to investigate and make sure no one is trapped or in need of rescue.

A river safety video from Sheriff’s Search and Rescue is posted here;

Photo courtesy of the Sheriff’s Office

Sunday Area Closure

(Gallatin County, Mont.) Sunday May 12, 2019 Leverich Canyon trail head and connecting trails are again closed to the public to assist Sheriff’s Search and Rescue on a missing person search.  Sheriff Gootkin and the Custer Gallatin National Forest appreciate the public understanding the need to minimize contamination of the area so that search dogs can be used to best effect.

Missing Butte Man Found Deceased in Missouri River

(Gallatin County, Mont.)

Sunday morning, May 5, Broadwater County Sheriff’s Deputies, Broadwater Search and Rescue along with Gallatin County Sheriff’s Investigators and Coroner responded to a body in the Missouri River at Toston Dam.  Search and Rescue recovered 73-year-old Ronald Lowny of Butte who was reported missing April 10th.  Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue had been searching the area of Drouillard Fishing Access near Three Forks in Gallatin County since his vehicle was found there on April 14th.  The Coroner determined cause of death to be drowning.

Coroner Identification

(Gallatin County, Mont.) The Sheriff/Coroner identified the person who died this morning at Jackrabbit and Cameron Bridge as 67 year old Robert A Melson of Belgrade.  The death was the result of a medical condition and not the vehicle crash that followed.

The identification of the person killed Wednesday on I-90 will not been released until relatives can be contacted.

Late Night for Bozeman Hiker

(Bozeman, Mont.)

On April 25, 2019, at 8:45 pm, the Gallatin County 911 Center received a call about a lost hiker. The caller reported that his 17-year-old son had gone hiking on Sypes Canyon Trail, left the trail and had become lost and stranded in deep snow. The son had water and was well prepared to spend the night if needed. Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to the trailhead to search for him. Because the hiker had a cell phone with battery back-up and knew how to use his GPS app, he was able to text his grid coordinates to searchers and Reach Air Medical Services confirmed the location of the hiker. SAR members hiked into the area and assisted the hiker back to the trailhead by 1:30 this morning.