Avalanche Victim Identified

On February 26, 2019, Gallatin County Dispatch Center received a call of an avalanche in the Truman Gulch canyon. Gallatin County Search and Rescue, Bridger Ski Patrol, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, and Central Helicopters responded to the scene.

Two skiers in the area observed the skier who was caught in the avalanche, they quickly located the skier and attempted to resuscitate.

Thirty-six year-old Peter Lazar of Bozeman was pronounced dead at the scene due to injuries sustained from the avalanche.

Big Sky Death Update

On February 25, 2019, at 1408 hours, Big Sky Fire and Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of an unresponsive, cold to the touch, 32 year old female at a residence on Aspen Leaf Drive.

Whitney Versteeg was deceased and a subsequent investigation indicated the death was from Complications of Alcoholism.


Bridger Mountain Range Avalanche

On Tuesday afternoon, at 2:00, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Bridger Ski Patrol, Gallatin N.F. Avalanche Center and Central Helicopters responded to an avalanche on the west side of the Bridger Mountain Range. One skier was caught in the avalanche; two skiers in the area observed avalanche start and were able to quickly locate the victim.  Despite quickly locating the male and resuscitation efforts, the male died on scene. The 36 year old Bozeman man’s Identity will be withheld until next of kin can be notified. 


Winter Weather Affecting Gallatin County

GCEM Media Release

Media Release: 190226-01
Contact:  Emergency Management (406) 548-0111

Winter Weather Affecting Gallatin County

Bozeman, MT – Residents around Gallatin County are encouraged to utilize safe winter practices as this winter storm affects Montana.  The community is encouraged to drive safety and allow extra travel time as crews work to safety clear roadways.  It is common during extended cold stretches accompanied with heavy snow accumulation for waterways to become plugged with ice forcing the water onto roadways and into other areas.  Water is currently affecting several roads (primarily Madison Rd.) around Gallatin County and drivers are encouraged to closely watch roadways for roadway hazards.  Additionally, those living near waterways should monitor conditions around their homes for flooding as water spreading underneath snow can be hard to see.  Ice stuck against the Logan Bridge on the Gallatin River is currently causing flooding that is affecting one home in Logan.

As Patrick Lonergan, Chief of Emergency Management & Fire explains, “We are currently experiencing winter in Montana and with that comes increased hazards to be aware of as we go about our day.  Sometimes these hazards are challenging to recognize, so minimize your travel, move slowly, keep your eyes open, and allow extra time.”

Winter preparedness information is available from FEMA at:  https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather.


Big Sky Death

  On February 25, 2019, Big Sky Fire and Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of an unresponsive, cold to the touch, 32 year old female.

  Whitney Versteeg was deceased and a subsequent investigation indicated the death was from natural causes.


Two Groups of Snowmobilers Retrieved near West Yellowstone

Sunday at 2:26 p.m. West Yellowstone Police Department dispatch received a call from a group of three snowmobilers from Minnesota who indicated they were having difficult locating the trail due to the extremely windy and snowy conditions. Dispatch advised them to hang up and call 911 to get a better location. The GPS coordinates indicated that they were located in the area of Horse Butte approximately 10 miles north of West Yellowstone. The snowmobilers indicated that they would remain at that location and wait for the weather to improve.

At approximately 6:27 p.m. the snowmobiler again called 911, reporting that they were still at the location and still unable to locate the trail system. The snowmobilers were uninjured but were getting cold and were concerned that they would get lost if they attempted to search for the trail. Due to the whiteout conditions and rapidly dropping temperatures, the decision was made to send a rescue crew to retrieve the snowmobilers. Rescuers from the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue in West Yellowstone and the Custer Gallatin National Forest Service responded to assist with the rescue.

As Rescuers made their way to the lost snowmobilers, they encountered a second group of snowmobilers who were stuck and having difficulty finding their way. Rescuers retrieved the first group of lost snowmobilers, assisted the second group in getting unstuck, and escorted both groups of snowmobilers safely back to West Yellowstone.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin would like to remind snowmobilers that the weather plays a significant part in the outcome of your outdoor adventures. Wind accompanied by heavy snow can create ground blizzard conditions, making it nearly impossible to find your way and increasing the risk of frostbite and hypothermia exponentially. As always, having a reliable form of communication is paramount.

Photo courtesy of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office

Massachusetts Youth Dies at Big Sky

(Big Sky, Mont.) On February 19th at 2:51, a 9-year-old boy from Carlisle, MA was reported missing by his father. The boy went missing near the junction of Middle Road and Lobo Ski Run at Big Sky Ski Resort. Shortly after the report, the boy was found deceased in a tree well. He died due to blunt force injuries caused by hitting a tree on a steep slope.

New security screening process at Law and Justice Center starting next week

After three weeks of practicing, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office personnel will begin a new screening process at the Law and Justice Center starting Monday, Feb. 25.

To increase safety for everyone who uses the Law and Justice Center, there will now be one entrance for the public coming into the building, located at 615 S. 16th Ave., where people will be screened for weapons, which are not allowed in the facility.

The list of prohibited weapons includes:

  • Firearms – with or without a permit, and including ammunition or replica firearms
  • Sharp objects – knives, scissors, cutting tools or arrows
  • Tools – including all construction tools
  • Disabling chemicals – mace or pepper spray
  • Stun devices – Tasers or stun guns
  • Club-like items – Billy clubs, baseball bats or batons

That entrance will be on the southwest side of the building. There, people will be greeted at a window by security, staffed by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. Bags will be put through a scanner, and people will walk through a metal detector.

Folks unable to use the stairs will be screened at the building’s north entrance.

The main entrance will be staffed Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For anyone wishing to come to the Law and Justice Center after hours, on weekends or on holidays, they can push a button at the entrance and someone will come screen them.

Signs have been posted around the building to remind people of these new protocols.

People are encouraged to get to the Law and Justice Center at least 10 minutes early to be screened. Around 8 a.m. is the busiest time at the building, so if possible, the public is also asked to try to find alternate times to visit the facility.

Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the new process is bound to include some growing pains and inconveniences at first.

But, the sheriff said, “Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.”

Gootkin said the new security measures have been a team effort between the sheriff’s office, the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office and the Gallatin County Commission.

There have been serious security incidents in the building in the past, and this new screening process will hopefully keep similar or worse incidents from happening in the future, the sheriff said.

“We’re being preventative,” Gootkin said.

In addition to the new screening process, additional electronic surveillance has been added throughout the Law and Justice Center.

The Law and Justice Center is the only county courthouse in Montana with this level of security.


Annual Gallatin County Spelling Bee to be held Feb. 23

The 2019 Gallatin County Spelling Bee will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. in the Hager Auditorium of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.

One of the oldest academic competitions in the area, the bee features the top spellers in grades 4 through 8 from all public and non-public schools in the county, representing a field of over 6,000 contestants.

Sixty spellers from over 40 public, private and home schools will compete for the top three places and a chance to represent Gallatin County at the Treasure State Spelling Bee to be held in March in Billings.

Local radio and newspaper columnist Chrysti “The Wordsmith” Smith will be pronouncing and numerous prizes will be awarded. Judges include Bozeman Daily Chronicle Arts and Culture Editor Rachel Hergett, Gallatin County Treasurer Jennifer Blossom, and Belgrade School District Trustee Mary Ellen Fitzgerald.

The Gallatin County Spelling Bee is sponsored by Bozeman Bowl, Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Dairy Queen, Edible Arrangements, MacKenzie River Pizza, and U-Swirl. The public is invited to attend. For more information, contact Gallatin County Superintendent of Schools Matthew Henry at (406) 582-3090 or by email at superintendentofschools@gallatin.mt.gov.

Photo courtesy Gallatin County Superintended of Schools:
Gallatin County Superintendent of Schools Matthew Henry, left, is joined by the top five finishers at the 2019 Gallatin County Selling Bee and Chrysti “The Wordsmith” Smith, far right.

Snowmobiler Rescued from Cabin Creek

(Gallatin County, Mont.)

Tuesday at 2:02 p.m. West Yellowstone Police Department dispatch received a 911 call from a snowmobiler reporting that a member of his group had crashed and broken his femur. The injured snowmobiler, a 44 year old male from Minnesota, was in the Cabin Creek area 12 miles north of West Yellowstone.

Rescuers from the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue in West Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, National Forest Service and a helicopter from Reach Air Medical Services responded.

Rescuers made their way to the patient who was located in a steep canyon with high avalanche danger. Despite the patient’s severe pain, rescuers were able to package him onto a narrow toboggan sled. Meanwhile, a helicopter from Reach Air Medical Services was able to find a suitable place to land. Rescuers transported the patient to the helicopter, which then transported him to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital for treatment.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin would like to thank all the volunteers and others involved with our Search and Rescue missions in Gallatin County. The inclement weather combined with significant snow fall created substantial challenges to rescuers and rescued alike. Snowmobilers are reminded to ride within their abilities and give special attention to the terrain and avalanche danger when choosing riding areas.

Photos courtesy of Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office