Missoula Story of the Week: Summer River Fatalities


Summer in Montana means it is time to get outside and rediscover the reason we all live in Montana.

Whether we are riding bikes or enjoying the regions abundant rivers and streams, the season reminds that we are truly fortunate to live in an area surrounded by recreational opportunities. Recent events have shed light on some of the dangers Montana’s waterways can present and should prove to be a reminder for people to be aware of their surroundings.

On Wednesday, Colleen Marie Nelson from Anaconda, who was floating the Blackfoot River was trapped in a log jam. She was eventually freed, but other members of her party lost sight of her. She was then seen floating face-down in the water by fisherman nearby who pulled her to shore and performed CPR, according to KPAX.com. Sadly, the accident proved fatal for the woman.

The Clark Fork River and Downtown Missoula.

Another drowning victim, whose body remained undiscovered until late last month, was finally found and identified. Hieu H. Le was last seen struggling in the waters of the Clark Fork River after jumping from the Madison Street last May.

An exhaustive search failed to recover the body, but his remains were eventually found near the Alberton Gorge last week, as reported by KPAX. The distance from the initial accident to where he was located illustrates just how powerful Montana’s rivers can be, especially during high-waters.

Early last week, a woman’s car was reported partially submerged near Trout Creek. The body of the driver was found inside the car which had apparently gone off Blue Side Road. The investigation into what led to the accident continues. KPAX reported that the woman’s name has not been released.

These unfortunate events show how quickly things can turn deadly around Montana’s rivers.

With temperatures rising this week, it is important to be aware of their surroundings and take precautions to remain safe when enjoying the area’s rivers and streams.


Each week, Tom Diddel recaps the week’s most talked-about story in Missoula. Visit the Make it Missoula News & Opinion section for more talk of the town.


Tom Diddel has lived in Missoula on and off for nearly thirty-eight years. He enjoys skiing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Montana and is currently working as a Freelance Writer and a Para-Educator.