PRIEST RIVER, Idaho – One person died and three are missing after a boat capsized Tuesday night on the Pend Oreille River.
The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office recovered one body and pulled the capsized speedboat from the water, according to a news release from the agency. There were reportedly four people on board when the vessel capsized around 7 p.m. in an area of the river about 94 feet deep.
The sheriff’s office scoured the river all day Wednesday near Old Thama Ferry Road, about 6 miles southeast of the town of Priest River, in search of other boat occupants. The sheriff’s office had not announced if it had recovered any other bodies as of Wednesday night, and officials could not be reached for comment.
Mike Kimling said he was grilling bratwursts on his deck Tuesday night when he saw a powerful boat cruising down the Pend Oreille River go airborne and flip upside down.
Kimling said the boat was heading west when the front of it lifted out of the water, landing on the water upside down “like somebody did a belly flop.”
Kimling said there was “water everywhere, and then it was just quiet.”
“It happened really quick,” he said.
Kimling said the wind was blowing hard Tuesday night.
After watching the boat flip, he said he shut off his Blackstone grill and he and his wife rushed down Old Thama Ferry Road and to the end of a dock to try to locate any people from the boat in the water. But they didn’t see anyone.
“Nobody likes to see it,” Kimling said of the accident. “It’s horrible. It’s horrible.”
By the time first responders arrived, the boat had floated about half a mile west, Kimling said.
“Typically, I’d have my boat in the water by now, and I think I would have hopped in that darn thing and gone out there, but nobody had their boats in,” Kimling said.
Linda Murray, who lives nearby, said all the neighbors normally have their boats in the water this time of the year, but the heavy spring rainfall has kept Albeni Falls Dam – between Priest River and Oldtown – open, and the river level lower than usual.
Murray said the river is typically busy with other boat traffic as well, but that has not been the case so far this year because of the river level.
Kyrsten Schwisow, who was visiting her parents’ home close by, said boats often zip down the part of the river where the boating accident occurred because it’s a straightaway and then has a wide corner.
“It’s always busy right here,” she said.
The sheriffs’ office said in its release that the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office marine vessel, which is outfitted with sonar, was en route to assist in the search. An Idaho Fish and Game vessel searched the shoreline, the release said.
The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office also requested resources from the state to assist in the search. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Names and ages of the occupants will not be released until next of kin are notified, the Bonner County release said.
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