Posted: May 2, 2012 10:12 PM by Dax VanFossen (KAJ News)
Updated: May 2, 2012 11:11 PM
COLUMBIA FALLS- A Columbia Falls man narrowly avoided tragedy after driving his car into the Flathead River on Wednesday afternoon. Montana's News Station spoke with witnesses, who report the male was texting while driving.
"From what we can tell, it was a one vehicle crash. The individual approached the corner...and what we hear from descriptions, [he] was texting on his cell phone," Montana Highway Patrol Trooper James Hawkins said.
The accident happened just east of the Flathead River bridge near the Teakettle Fishing Access when a young male, who was driving his mother's Ford Explorer, was apparently not paying attention to the road and drove off a 50 foot cliff.
"He looked up and was unable to avoid a crash collision with this tree and went off the side of the road...and into the river. He was able to get out of the car, but the vehicle floated down the river quite a bit here," Hawkins explained.
Crews from the Bad Rock Fire Department and Western Towing, along with the Flathead and North Valley Search and Rescue teams, worked tirelessly to try and pull the car out of the swift moving river.
"They're trying to get down and get that vehicle hooked up as best they can. The current's pretty strong, so they are unable to get that hook on the vehicle," Hawkins said.
The accident happened at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday and it took about four hours before the tow trucks were able to pull the vehicle to the road.
The driver was hypothermic when found, but according to the Montana Highway Patrol will be okay with rescue personnel on scene telling us that the driver of the vehicle was extremely fortunate to survive the crash.