BILLINGS — A white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck was towed out of the middle of the Yellowstone River near Coulson Park in Billings Tuesday afternoon after two young males abandoned it after attempting to drive across the river Monday night.
"Normally it's something that's stolen, and often no one is involved as far as in the vehicle," said Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder. "In this case it was a little different."
Linder has spent his fair share of time in the Yellowstone as a former diver for the department.
"My first thought was, I’m glad they got out," he said.
The two males attempted to drive the pickup from the shore to an island bar but couldn’t handle the rising river.
"People can’t see how powerful the water is by looking at, until they’re in, it, and then it’s essentially too late," said Shane Weinreis, president of the U.S. Water Rescue Dive Team in Billings.
The two got out of the water safely, but it meant Weinreis’ team had to get in. Linder said the truck floated a little downstream overnight, until it got caught on large rocks and was pounded by even more water.
"Just since this morning, (the river level) has probably come up 4-5 inches," Linder said. "The top of the truck box was out of the water, but now it's almost completely under."
The dive team members attached cables to the truck, then Anderson Towing out of Shepherd pulled it ashore. It was all remarkably in one piece, though there was plenty of water damage.
It was a generally happy ending to a situation that could have been much worse.
"We’re coming up on dangerous parts of the year because the snowmelt is causing the river to start rising," Weinreis said. "It's also getting warmer outside so people want to recreate."
"This happens more often than it should," Linder added. "Not only is it against the law, but it’s dangerous."
And expensive, when you add up the damage, towing fee, and inevitable misdemeanor fine.