HELENA – Students and staff of a Bible camp cut off by flooding were brought out safely Thursday, thanks to Lewis and Clark County leaders and the Montana Army National Guard.
Families gathered at Holman Aviation in Great Falls, awaiting Guard helicopters that airlifted the campers from the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible.
“My first thought was, ‘Whoa, we’re just a bunch of kids, and instead we get a helicopter ride? This doesn’t happen to everyone every day,’” said Amy Ollivant, one of the campers.
100 kids and 37 staff members were taking part in a junior-high summer camp at the school, near the Dearborn River southwest of Augusta. The Dearborn is one of a number of rivers in the area that have seen dramatic flooding this week. County leaders said flood waters washed out portions of Dearborn Canyon Road, so no one was able to get in or out.
“There really wasn’t any danger at the time, but just not knowing the unknown of when anybody could get in or out of there, I’m sure parents would have really wanted their kids to be out,” said Capt. Brent Colbert of the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Colbert said leaders decided to call for assistance from the National Guard. Gov. Steve Bullock approved the use of two Chinook helicopters to bring everyone out.
Campers like Loren Lane said it all made for a unique and exciting experience.
“I’ve never flown on a helicopter before,” he said.
Teresa Lane, Loren’s mother, came in from Augusta to get him.
“Who would think I’d have to drive 60 miles to come pick him up, but, you know what, it was worth it,” she said. “My daughter’s very jealous because her brother got to have fun and she didn’t.”
Families and campers thanked the authorities who made the airlift possible.
“It was really cool and once-in-a-lifetime,” Amy Ollivant said. “I wish I could do it again, but that’s probably not likely.”
Colbert said Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue crew members flew into the area with the helicopters. They then took all-terrain vehicles to the Diamond Bar X subdivision, to check on residents who had also been cut off by the flooding.
Margaret DeMarco contributed to this report.