Man on the ice talks to GFFR, leaves Central Avenue bridge locat - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Man on the ice talks to GFFR, leaves Central Avenue bridge location

Posted: Mar 04, 2018 6:19 PM Updated:

A man who has stayed on the icy Missouri River near the Central Avenue bridge for over 24 hours spoke to Great Falls Fire Rescue officials on Sunday afternoon.

According to Battalion Chief Bob Shupe, the man whose first name is Ben asked for an AM/FM radio and to call a friend.

Shupe said GFFR allowed him to make a phone call and a retired firefighter brought him a hot meal.

Shupe added that he offered the man his own tent and sleeping bag but the man refused.

He eventually returned to the ice. As of 5:30 p.m., officials were unable to locate him.

 Ryan Villines has created a GoFundMe page for Ben. It reads, in part:

Ben says that he is originally from Arkansas, and that he made his way to Great Falls about five months ago. He said he knows a few people in town, and has/had a job, and even perhaps a girlfriend, but that things have gone downhill and that has led to him living homelessly around town. He recently built himself a shelter and a small camp of sorts near where Central Ave crosses the Missouri River (That many of us took note of for it's eccentric vibrancy), and spent part of his days making drawings in the snow and the ice that he knew many of would enjoy seeing, but he claims that he was recently harassed by people and police to the point that he was forced to move from his encampment, and the only "Home" he knew. He was so disappointed when told that he was going to have to abandon the area that he took what few items he needed strictly to survive, moved out into the middle of the frozen river where nobody would bother him, and burned his prior encampment down. Thus the frozen rivertop is where he sits today.

Click here if you would like to visit the page or make a donation.

Late Sunday evening, Shupe told KRTV that Ben is staying in a hotel for the night, and believes that a Great Falls couple paid for the room.

We will update you if we get more information.

(March 4, 2018, 2:28 p.m.) The man who wandered up and down the Missouri River on Saturday is back on the ice and building what appears to be an igloo.

According to Great Falls Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Bob Shupe, the man whose first name is Ben was living on Bay Drive near the "barrel" building in a tent. Shupe said the tent had burned and they believe that may have set the man off.

The man spent the night on the ice near the Central Avenue bridge and walked to the old 9th Street Bridge, climbed on top of the bridge, and then walked away from the river.

The first responders believed the situation was over and left but as of 10:30 a.m., the man was back on the river and walking near the refinery. Around 2 p.m., the man had returned to the Central Avenue bridge and was building what appeared to be an igloo. 

Many bystanders were calling out to him offering help but the man refused and said he wanted to be left alone.

According to Shupe, because the man is not doing anything illegal, first responders are just standing by and observing him.

Shupe added that yesterday when they made contact with him, he threatened to jump into the water if they came any closer. Shupe said  that because the man said he is not suicidal and has not threatened anyone, emergency crews cannot do anything at this time.

GFFR is asking that the public not stop and talk to the man or take pictures because the man has made it clear he wants to be alone.

Shupe is also asking that the public not report the man on the ice because the calls are tying up emergency response. 

We will continue to update you with any new information.

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