Was the Clark Fork Drowning Victim Bullied?

by jhwygirl

With the Clark’s Fork rising, search efforts on a 15 mile stretch of river were called off after efforts both last night and this morning and afternoon failed to turn up the body of a male 19 year old UM student.

The student had jumped into the river with a female companion early yesterday evening around 6:30. Response was instantaneous, as community member Mikal Anderson was on the trail adjacent to the Madison Street footbridge (where the jump was made.) Anderson – a certified EMT and lifeguard instructor – jumped into the river after the young man who had immediately showed signs of trouble once he surfaced briefly from the jump.

I hope he gets the public thanks that he deserves for his effort.

While the loss of a life under such a reckless act does leave me shaking my head wondering why anyone would jump into the flooding waters of a Montana river, what I heard on KECI on this evening’s news leaves me very disturbed. And concerned for the still-visibly shaken Danielle Chesley who witnessed the jump.

Ms. Chesley tells the the story of a young man who was goaded into jumping by a girl – even after having expressed a fear of the water and its temperature. here is the interview, but be warned that you might find it upsetting.

My heart goes out not only to the family of the victim, but also to Danielle – who expresses concern for the (as of yet) unnamed victim’s family. While the family will no doubt struggle with this loss, they will struggle more with the knowledge that some companion of their son prodded him to do something despite his clearly demonstrated misgivings over his ability to handle the situation.

A tragedy. In some ways, a tragedy multiple times over.

After watching the KECI interview, I can’t help but think of what bullying does. Hazing is another form of bullying – and whether the victims are 9 or 19, the results can be tragic. Undoubtedly there was no intent to cause harm, but there also appears to be a lack of concern for the personal safety of the victim.

I am leaning towards this having been a situation of bullying – and I am left wondering what we can do as a society to change the community standards that create an environment where this kind of behavior happens.

Life is never perfect and there will always be tragedies – but recognizing the factors that bring about situations like that which resulted in the tragedy witnessed by Danielle Chesley yesterday evening may be one step in ensuring that a life is saved the next time someone considers pushing someone too far. Or the next time someone considers “yes” to doing what the victim did when the jumped from the bridge.


  1. mtstargazer

    Great article over a sad tragedy. Thanks for bringing to light the bullying aspect. Important for us to be aware of.

  2. Pogo Possum

    The death of this young man is a tragedy. I encourage people not to make it worse by making unfounded accusations of “bullying” against others until the facts are known.

    • We’ll only know the facts if people question the incident. In that sense, Danielle is an angel doing that job.

  3. Sees Water Jumps

    Everybody is a victim in your upside-down world of no individual responsibility. I think the boy was stupid, and only a little more than you for trying to convert this incident into a liberal nanny state hot button issue.

    This is a Darwinian thing. Accept it. Get back to commenting on Missoula as Little Nanking.

  4. Pogo Possum

    “. . . she said the girl coaxed him into jumping.”

    Danielle didn’t say he was “bullied”. She said he was coaxed. I have seen bullying and there is a big difference between the two.

    I am not criticizing Danielle and she isn’t questioning anything. She is stating what she observed and is stating what she “thinks” was said to him. Based on her statement, it doesn’t appear she heard the conversation between the two people.

  5. This is tragic and unfortunate, though I wouldn’t consider it bullying with the information we have at hand. I have been “coaxed” into doing moderately dangerous things I was afraid of, only to find the experience positive in the end, which certainly wasn’t a guarantee, Most people probably do. But of course there is an acceptable threshold between pushing yourself, pushing others to face their fears, and flat out saying no. I do believe that jumping into the Clark Fork off of that bridge right now is very dangerous. The river not only has powerful currents, but there are also so many objects moving along its bottom. It’s very possible he came down on a submerged log, While fishing, I’ve seen 40 foot logs float by and disappear beneath the water in just the last week.

    I do see this as a lesson in following your gut, and not giving in to peer pressure. Tell your children and yourselves that if something does not seem safe to you, do not do it, regardless of the flack you catch from your friends. How very sad.

    • Thanks. I did pose it as a question, and I think it’s worthy to discuss where the line crosses between coaxing and bullying or hazing.

      Putting your blog on the blogroll over there – geology, philosophy, politics and Montana…love it!

  6. Josh

    The river that runs through Missoula is called the Clark Fork. Clark’s Fork is a tributary of the Yellowstone.

    • the original maps of this valley have it as The Clark’s Fork.

      I probably shouldn’t do that – you’re right – I guess I look at old maps too much.

      • Steve W

        Either is correct apparently. I googled and found the Missoulain calling it Clark’s Fork of the Colombia.

        The other is Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone.

        However, most locals call ours The Clark Fork River and the others is apparently called Clarks Fork River by locals.




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