Sheriff has identified the two men who drowned in the Marias River

South Bootlegger campground in Toole County
Search underway for two missing men in Toole County
Posted at 10:48 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 21:00:27-05

GREAT FALLS — Toole County Coroner Dan Whitted has identified the two men whose bodies were recovered from the Marias River on Tuesday as Jared Russell and Jerid Kirschenheiter.

Russell, 43 years old, was from Missoula. Kirschenheiter, 40 years old, was from Clinton.

They were taken to the Medical Examiners' Office in Missoula for autopsies on Wednesday. Whitted said in a news release that the cause of death was drowning and the manner of death was an accident.

In addition to the Toole County Sheriff's Office, the following agencies assisted in the recovery effort: Cascade County Sheriff's Office, Cascade County Search and Rescue, Flathead County Sheriff's Office, Toole County Search & Rescue, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

(FEBRUARY 16) The bodies of two men were recovered from the Marias River in Toole County on Tuesday afternoon.

The two men were reported missing on February 9th when a side-by-side they were traveling in did not return to camp. A friend followed the tracks that he found and noticed that they ended in open water on the Marias River.

Investigators learned that the men had left camp earlier in the day to visit people staying at a second camp located on the south side of the river west of South Bootlegger. When they did not return, a third man in their party went to find them, following their tracks to an area of open water.

After an extensive search of the area, the only tracks located leaving the campsite were tracks leading onto the ice and into an area of open water. Floating in the open water were items identified by the initial reporting party as being on the side-by-side when it left camp. Air and ground search efforts turned up no further clues that anyone left the water.

Sub-zero temperatures and severe weather at the location hampered earlier efforts for responders to safely make the recovery.

The Toole County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that the suspected location was opened in the ice and two divers went into the water, found the bodies, and brought them to the surface. The bodies will be taken to the State Crime Lab by the Toole County Coroner. The names of the two men have not yet been released.