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Ambulance emergency

A Hamilton man drowned Friday after attempting to save a dog caught in an undertow behind a diversion dam on the Bitterroot River.

Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton identified the man as 57-year-old Jeffrey Dwigans.

Hamilton Police Chief Ryan Oster said the accident occurred late afternoon Friday at the diversion dam behind the Hamilton sewage treatment plant.

“A lot of people use that little sandy beach behind the sewage treatment plant where the Corvallis canal takes off,” Oster said.

Witnesses said the man was throwing a stick into the pool behind the dam for his dog. Oster said he apparently threw it too far out and the dog became trapped in the undertow.

The man and two other people attempted to help the dog. They were not successful.

“By the time the other two people got out of the water, they were pretty tired,” Oster said. “When they got back to shore, the man had floated off downstream.”

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The Hamilton Police Department responded to a report of a man in the water.

The department’s bicycle officer, Norm Williams, rode through Steve Powell Park and spoke to the witnesses. He then followed the river downstream where he found the man submerged behind the Bitterroot River Inn.

Williams pulled the man out of the river and immediately began CPR. By that time, Oster said the man may have been in the water 45 minutes to an hour.

Oster said people need to careful anytime they decide to swim or float the Bitterroot River.

“This river is filled with snags and other junk,” he said. “People also need to understand the water is turbulent around that diversion dam. There’s an undertow on both sides. They need to stay out of there. If they go there with kids, they need to keep them away from that thing.”

Oster wasn’t sure what happened to the dog. His office did receive a report of seeing a dog float past Veteran’s Bridge that appeared to be deceased.

A Ravalli Republic reader said the dog was found dead by a good friend of the man who drowned. 

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