Plane crashes, sinks into Yellowstone River during Boat Float

During the annual Yellowstone River Boat Float Saturday, a passenger plane with two occupants crashed into the river after tangling in some power lines east of the Otter Creek Fishing Access in Sweet Grass County.

A 60-year-old male and a 75-year-old female were transferred to Pioneer Medical Center (PMC) in Big Timber shortly after the crash. At 1:34 p.m. help flight was requested by a PMC employee.

No floaters in the area were injured.

The victim's names have not yet been released.

First responders were alerted to the crash at 11:05 a.m. when a caller reported seeing the plane go down in the middle of the river, according to Sweet Grass County dispatch logs.

Mimi Nicholas, of Billings, said she was manning her free shuttle service stand at the fishing access when she saw the small yellow plane flying incredibly low out of the corner of her eye.

"I saw it come over the porta potty and I was like, "God, he's low," Nicholas said.

She then turned around and watched as the plane crashed into several power lines above the river, flipped and plummeted into the high waters.

"It was pretty scary," she added. "I heard the crunch when he hit the lines."

She immediately called 911 and was put on hold by Sweet Grass County dispatchers who began paging first responders.

Boaters near the scene of the crash quickly paddled over to the floating plane and grabbed the occupants from the water, Nicholas recalled.

Sweet Grass County Search and Rescue (SAR), Sweet Grass County Ambulance Service (SGCAS) and Big Timber Volunteer Fire Department arrived at the scene a few minutes later. At 11:16 a.m. SAR reported they had picked up the man and woman in a jet boat and transported them back up to Otter Creek where the victims were then transported via SGCAS to PMC.

Alicia Kline, of Livingston, said that onlookers immediately began clapping when the two victims were paddled back up to Otter Creek.

The man walked himself to the waiting ambulance, and the woman was carried out of the river on a stretcher with chest, neck pain and bruising on her upper left thigh, call logs show.

"I was just like, "I'm so glad you're alive," Kline added.

Law enforcement stopped boaters from continuing down the Yellowstone until the power lines had been shut off at 11:36 a.m. by NorthWestern Energy, reports show.

Kline was standing at the Otter Creek ramp and warning boaters of the power lines in the water after the crash. 

"People just need to be careful," she said.

She added that she had seen the plane "buzzing" around throughout the morning and was unsure as to why the pilot flew that low to the river.

Kline has attended boat float for 13 years and said she has seen a lot of quick rescues, but that this one was incredibly efficient.

"(The rescue) went great," she said.


The Pioneer will update this story as more information becomes available.


Photos and story Olivia Keith/ Pioneer Staff Writer


CUTLINE: Boat Float participants float past the downed power line just east of Otter Creek Fishing Access in Sweet Grass County.


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