Madison River Death

(Gallatin County, Mont) On September 29th, 2020 at 1:45, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Three Forks Ambulance, and Three Forks Fire Department responded to the lower Madison River, approximately two miles north of Cobblestone Fishing Access, for a canoe that had flipped over due to a large cottonwood tree/snag in the river channel.

Two fishermen found one man on a gravel bank with minor injuries and deceased man still in the vessel, caught in the snag. The reporting fishermen were able to get cell service to call dispatch. With the help of deputies and Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, all parties were accounted for and recovered. Cause of death is under investigation by the Gallatin County Coroner’s Office.

The deceased man has been identified as Scot E. Smith II of Belgrade.

Photo courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office

Bear Canyon Low-Angle Rescue

(Gallatin County, Mont) At 7:40 pm on September 29, 2020, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue was dispatched to Bear Canyon for a woman who suffered traumatic injuries after to a rock-climbing fall. Search and Rescue volunteers reached the patient and used technical rescue skills to perform a low-angle rescue to bring her back to the trail. A low-angle rescue involves dozens of rescuers setting up anchor points, creating pulley systems, and using specialized belay and patient litter packaging techniques to carefully move the patient to a safe place. The patient was then transported to the trailhead and transferred to American Medical Response to be taken to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. The patient was treated for non-life threatening injuries to her head, arm, and leg.

Photos courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office

Bridger Foothills Fire Summary

(Gallatin County, Mont) On September 5, 2020, the Bridger Foothills fire went from approximately 400 acres to over 7000 in a 6-hour period. This type of wind and fire behavior is extremely fast and dangerous. When you combine the canyon topography with residences located on long winding roads surrounded by forest, warnings and evacuations were extremely dangerous and difficult.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office warned and/or evacuated the following a total of 728 residences and 1674 people:

  • 588 residences (1352 people) in Gallatin County
  • 140 residences (322 people) in Park County

The evacuation area (without Bracket Creek/Skunk Creek) is 165 sq miles – see map.

Damage:

  • 28 homes lost
  • 3 injuries, all firefighters
  • 0 lives lost

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office had 42 deputies (out of 62) who worked the fire, totaling approximately 800 overtime hours on top of regular hours worked. The following law enforcement agencies assisted with road blocks and traffic control: Park County Sheriff’s Office, Sweetgrass County Sheriff’s Office, Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, Bozeman Police Department, MSU Police Department, Montana Highway Patrol, and US Forest Service.

Sheriff Brian M. Gootkin

Map of evacuation area courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims

Recently the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has received multiple reports regarding fraudulent unemployment claims. Most reports involve an unknown person having obtained the victim’s Social Security number and date of birth and filing a fraudulent claim through the Montana Department of Labor and Industry in an attempt to receive money.

If your employer receives an unemployment notice that you didn’t file, immediately contact the Montana Department of Labor and Industry with the claim number on the fraudulent claim. The Department of Labor and Industry will put a freeze on the claim to prevent any funds or letters from being released.

If a fraudulent claim has been filed, your Social Security number may be comprised. Below are a couple of steps to prevent any further fraudulent activity under your SSN or name.

  1. Contact the three major credit companies and informed them that your SSN may be compromised. This creates a record and allows them to freeze your credit score if necessary.
  2. Contact your local Social Security Office and inform them that your SSN may be compromised. The Social Security Office will not issue a new SSN but if asked they may put an alert on your account that prevents any business from being conducted under your SSN without showing a photo ID. This would prevent someone from creating a social security account online, ordering a new Social Security Card, applying for benefits, etc.
  3. Contact the financial institutions you bank with and inform them that your SSN may be compromised. Let them know where you are so they can keep an eye out for unusual activity.
  4. Pay close attention to your bank account and credit rating; if you notice any unfamiliar transactions, contact the Sheriff’s Office to file a report.

Bear Canyon Horse Accident

(Gallatin Canyon, Mont) On Wednesday, September 23, 2020 1:30, Gallatin County 911 received a call. The location of the call was about three miles up Bear Canyon trail but dispatch was unable to clearly hear the caller. A deputy attempted to call and text the reporting party and was unable to get through due to bad cell service. Based on the location, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue was activated.

A short time later, the deputy received a phone call from the reporting party, who had ridden his horse to cell service. He explained that a group of five riders were approximately 2.5 miles up the trail when a 68-year-old man was bucked off his horse and had numerous injuries. Based on the injuries and the location of the call, Life Flight Air Ambulance was request. Life Flight was able to land about 600 yards away, about the same time Search and Rescue volunteers made it to the patient on four-wheelers. The patient was moved to the helicopter by Search and Rescue team members and taken to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.

Photos courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

Missing Person Correction

An earlier press release gave the wrong spelling for a missing person. The correct name is JoVonne Justice. Apologies for the error.

CORRECTED PRESS RELEASE

(Gallatin County, Mont) The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the public’s assistance in locating JoVonne Marie Justice, 44 years old. JoVonne was reported missing from Gallatin County on September 14, 2020. She is 5’5” and 140-160 pounds, with blue eyes. She currently has blond hair but has been known to dye it different colors in the past; she usually wears her hair in a ponytail as seen in the photo. She does not have a vehicle and her destination is unknown.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of JoVonne, please contact the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division at (406) 582-2121 or Gallatin County Dispatch at (406) 582-2100 ext. 2.

Missing Person

(Gallatin County, Mont) The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the public’s assistance in locating JaVonne Marie Justice, born 9/11/1976. JaVonne was reported missing from Gallatin County on September 14, 2020. She is 5’5” and 140-160 pounds, with blue eyes. She currently has blond hair but has been known to dye it different colors in the past; she usually wears her hair in a ponytail as seen in the photo. She does not have a vehicle and her destination is unknown.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of JaVonne, please contact the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division at (406) 582-2121 or Gallatin County Dispatch at (406) 582-2100 ext. 2.

Photos courtesy of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

Cold Hikers and Bikers Rescued

(Gallatin County, Mont) On Monday, May 7th, at 3pm, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue responded to a report of four individuals stranded at the Mystic Lake Cabin in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Two mountain bikers had planned an overnight mountain bike trip from Hyalite Canyon to Sourdough Canyon. The weather took an abrupt turn, dropping from a high of 87 degrees on September 6th to a high of 58 degrees on September 7th and higher elevations began to see snow in the late afternoon. The mountain bikers came upon a separate party of three hikers near the area of Mystic Lake Cabin. The hikers were also unprepared for such a drastic shift in weather. The group decided to stay put and make a fire, while one of the bicyclists rode to the Sourdough trailhead to call for help.

Search and Rescue volunteers and the Forest Service District Ranger reached the stranded party by vehicle.  SAR members successfully retrieved the party and transported them to the Sourdough trailhead where AMR Paramedics assessed their condition.  All members were medically cleared and allowed to returned home.

Sheriff Gootkin would like to remind everyone of the potential for rapidly changing weather conditions in Gallatin County as fall arrives.  Please be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear, pack necessary provisions, and be prepared to stay out longer than expected when venturing out into our beautiful backcountry.

Bozeman Foothills Fire Relief Fund

(Gallatin County, Mont) A community fundraising effort has been launched to rapidly mobilize financial resources to meet the needs of individuals, families, and agencies impacted by the Bridger Foothills Fire.

The creation of the Bridger Foothills Fire Relief Fund is a joint effort between the Southwest Montana Community Organizations Active in Disaster (SWMT COAD), Greater Gallatin United Way, and One Valley Community Foundation to streamline financial support and direct it to people affected by the fire who need funding most. Funding will also be distributed to agencies supporting fire relief efforts.

To make a donation to the Bridger Foothills Fire Relief Fund, text BRIDGERS to 91999  or give online through the web pages of Greater Gallatin United Way and One Valley Community Foundation.

Big Sky Hiker Bitten by Bear

(Gallatin County, Mont) On September 7 at 7 am Gallatin County 911 received a call from a hunter who had been attacked by a bear. The 69-year-old local man suspected he had gone too close to a kill site near Flattop Mountain where a friend had harvested an animal a couple days ago. A sow bear with cubs attacked him, causing injuries to his shoulder and hip.

Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue in Big Sky, Big Sky Fire, Montana Highway Patrol, and Yellowstone Club Security were able to drive close to the man and walk him out to the waiting ambulance, which transported him to the Big Sky Medical Center.

Sheriff Brian Gootkin would like to remind hunters and hikers that bears more actively search for food in the fall and can be protective of their food sources. When hunting or hiking in bear country, always have some form of repellent easily accessible on you. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged in case you have an emergency and need to use it.