Investigation continues for fatal Upper Holter Lake boat accident

Posted at 9:23 AM, May 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-01 11:34:59-04

Leaders with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks say they are still investigating a boating accident on Upper Holter Lake over the weekend that left a 63-year-old Missouri man dead.

Game Warden Sgt. Justin Hawkaluk said Tuesday that they had recovered the boats involved. They will update their report into the incident later this week.

Authorities say two boats capsized Sunday, during a fishing trip outfitted by a company from Ennis. Five of the people on board were rescued. A sixth, Craig Bristle of Pacific, Missouri, died at the scene. Investigators say Bristle was not wearing a life jacket.

Hawkaluk said there is currently nothing to indicate any criminal charges, but the investigation is still open.

Investigators have said it is likely the weather played a role in the accident. The lake saw strong winds and blowing snow on Sunday.

-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News

(April 28, 2019) Lewis and Clark County authorities say one person is dead and five others were taken to the hospital after two boats capsized on Upper Holter Lake Sunday morning.

Cpl. Greg Holmlund, search and rescue liaison with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, said the small fishing boats were traveling close to each other when they capsized.

Authorities received a 911 call just before 10 a.m. Emergency crews responded to the Gates of the Mountains marina, where search and rescue teams went into the water.

The body of one male victim was recovered. Five other people were rescued and taken to St. Peter’s Health in Helena. They were reported to be in stable condition.

Deputies said wind and blowing snow made conditions extremely difficult – both for the boaters and for the rescuers.

“The conditions were obviously not the choice for anybody, either recreating or even to do what we do professionally, trying to do a rescue,” said LCSO Capt. Alan Hughes.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will still investigate the incident, but Hughes said it’s likely the weather played a role.

Authorities initially believed three boats had capsized, but after further investigation, they determined there had only been two involved.

After rescue crews returned to the marina, they received a report of another boat nearby that was stranded against the rocks. They went back onto the lake and brought the passengers to safety.

Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue, the LCSO Water Emergency Team, the Montana Highway Patrol, West Valley Volunteer Fire Department, St. Peter’s Health and Montana FWP all responded. Holmlund said a Gates of the Mountains tour boat also assisted.