Two Bear Air rescues 13 people safely after camp floods
KALISPELL, Mont. —
Two Bear Air rescued 13 people Tuesday morning, who were stranded in the Scapegoat Wilderness due to high, rushing waters and flooding.
Chief rescue specialist Will Milam said it was a guided horse-packing trip, where five outfitter guides took 13 clients out across the Dearborn River, but large amounts of rain caused the river to rise too high for the group to pass back over.
He said the rescue took nearly five hours.
When they first took off Milam told NBC Montana he was not sure what to expect, but once they got close he knew why they needed rescuing.
"We come over a ridge, and we can see the Dearborn River, and at that point it became obvious how somebody could become stranded, because the river was flowing extremely high, chocolate milk looking,” said Milam.
Milam said the water flowed through the campsite.
"The camp became underwater. No matter where you stood you were standing in ankle-deep or knee-deep water," Milam said.
The way out of camp meant going through the rushing water, and it was too dangerous for the travelers.
"With the way the river was flowing you would have to be pretty skilled on a horse, so the risk of taking unskilled people across the river wasn't an option,” Milam told NBC Montana. “The guide did tell me he had a trail cut that went up and over up high, but with the amount of water and rain coming off he was concerned, with which I agreed with him on that a lot of that trail was probably sloughing off."
They originally planned to take the people to a nearby landing strip in Benchmark, and then they would be shuttled to Augusta, but there were concerns that Benchmark Road was washed out.
Two Bear Air ended up making trips to Augusta and dropped three people off at a time.
The five outfitter guides stayed behind with the horses. Milam said he helped them move their camp to drier ground and that they had enough resources to last them.