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Efforts to recover two men in Toole County expected to resume this week

Efforts to recover two men in Toole County expected to resume this week
Posted at 4:04 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 18:04:23-05

GREAT FALLS — Efforts to recover the bodies of two men believed to have died last week in Toole County are expected to resume this week.

"At this point, we just want Toole County to step up and get this thing over with,” said Kevin Curtiss, a friend of the two men who are believed to have died after falling through the ice on Lake Elwell on February 8.

Curtiss was frustrated Monday as an attempt to recover his two friends still hadn't happened. He believes it should have, saying the Toole County Sheriff's Office had been refusing help that would allow the recovery to have happened.

Toole County Undersheriff Ryan Larson said that's not true: "We had Cascade County here the day of and Flathead County here the day after.”

Missoula County was also contacted, but help was not requested in order to avoid overcomplicating the recovery process by having too many agencies involved.

The two men, who Curtiss and the Toole County Sheriff's Office were not identifying as of Monday, are believed to have fallen into the ice as they were driving a UTV to visit two other fishermen.

"It left two wives without husbands and four kids without dads, so you can imagine,” Curtiss said when asked how the two mens’ families were doing.

Larson told KRTV last week and again Monday that the reason a recovery attempt hasn't been made is because the sub-zero temperatures are too dangerous.

Using a remote vehicle to recover the bodies was considered, but the Sheriff's Office decided divers need to do the recovery so a proper investigation can be done. Therefore, the air temperature need to at least be above zero.

"It just comes down to (the) crime scene factor. This is a tragic accident but even accidents on land are investigated as crime scenes,” said Larson.

As of Monday, the UTV had been found in the water but bodies had not. Larson said the recovery process was expected to happen in the next day or two.

(FEBRUARY 10) The cold weather is delaying what the Toole County Sheriff’s Office is calling the recovery of two missing fishermen.

The two men camped on the north side of the Marias River were reported missing Monday when they didn’t return after leaving to visit another camp. Tracks from their UTV led to open water and items from their UTV were found floating in the water.

Toole County Undersheriff Ryan Larson said the air temperature needs to get above zero before recovery efforts can safely begin. He explained, "If somebody gets exposed to water, the air temperature being above zero makes the chance of somebody getting hurt less likely. Trying to get a conference call between us, Flathead County with their Two Bear Air Rescue that's been helping us, and Cascade County and develop a plan.”

The names of the two men have not yet been released. The Sheriff’s Office reminds people to use extreme caution on the ice because there are parts of the river where the ice is unstable.