GREAT FALLS — The bodies of two men were recovered from the Marias River in Toole County on Tuesday afternoon.
The two men were reported missing on Feb. 9 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.
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.