4 rescued from Yellowstone River near Billings

Dramatic rescue captured on video
Posted at 8:53 AM, Jul 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-10 16:57:14-04

BILLINGS - Emergency response crews rescued four people from the Yellowstone River on Sunday evening.

The dramatic rescue of three people stranded on an island was captured on video by a Billings Fire Department drone and released to the public Monday morning. A fourth person was rescued after they became tangled in a tree.

Watch the video of the rescue below:

Raw Video: Yellowstone River Rescue

Here is the full press release from Victoria Hill, the public information officer for the City of Billings:

Emergency response teams in Billings joined forces in a highly effective multi-agency water rescue operation, resulting in the safe recovery of four individuals on Sunday night. This collaborative effort demonstrated the exceptional coordination and utilization of advanced technology to respond to water emergencies.

On July 9, 2023, emergency services responded to a distress call reporting a water emergency involving multiple individuals in the Yellowstone River near South West Billings at 8:59 p.m. The Billings Fire Department, the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, AMR, and additional fire units swiftly arrived at the scene, ready to provide assistance.

The incident commander immediately initiated a well-coordinated response, with each agency utilizing their specialized resources and expertise. The Billings Fire Department's drone team played a critical role in the operation by deploying an unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with an infrared (IR) camera. The IR technology proved invaluable in locating the stranded victims, even in challenging conditions of darkness.

In the first phase of the operation, the swift water rescue team from the Billings Fire Department successfully executed the rescue of an individual stranded on a tree in the middle of the river around 9:30 p.m. Simultaneously, responders focused their efforts on the rescue of three additional individuals who were stranded on an island in the river. These rescues spanned from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. The Sheriff's Office Rescue Boat, operated by the Sheriff's Office and supported by swift water technicians from the Billings Fire Department, navigated the challenging waters and facilitated the safe recovery of the individuals.

This incident highlights the inherent risks associated with water activities, particularly in rivers, and serves as a reminder for all individuals engaging in such activities to prioritize their safety. The Billings Fire Department urges everyone to wear a properly fitting and U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, as it significantly increases the chances of survival during water emergencies. Additionally, individuals should inform a trusted person about their plans, including the intended location, expected return time, and any changes to the itinerary, to facilitate a swift response in case of an emergency.

The individual stranded in a tree had an inexpensive raft that flipped and she then became tangled in a tree.

The second set of victims were looking for their friend and got stranded on the island.

The successful outcome of this water rescue operation was a testament to the joint efforts and seamless collaboration between the Billings Fire Department, the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, AMR, and other supporting agencies. Their commitment to public safety, coupled with the utilization of advanced technology, contributed to the successful recovery of all four individuals involved.