By Tim Eberly
Local authorities this morning were awaiting the arrival of a Lewis and Clark search and rescue team to search for the body of a Rocky Boy police officer in the Bonneau Reservior on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
Police officer Robert Taylor, 43, drowned while attempting to save two fisherman who had tipped their boat about 75 yards from shore, Rocky Boy criminal investigator Stan Gardipee said today.
Taylor responded at 6:30 p.m. Monday to a 911 call after a witness reported that Rocky Boy residents Ira Moreno, 28, and Junior Norquay had tipped their 12-foot rowboat in the cold water, Gardipee said.
When Taylor arrived at the scene, one man had unsuccessfully attempted to rescue Moreno, who was clinging to the overturned boat, witness Joe Morsette said today.
Norquay swam to shore after the boat tipped over, Gardipee said. The water temperature was between 45 and 50 degrees, he said.
Taylor shed his gun belt and shoes, and entered the water from the northeast shoreline wearing his pants and a T-shirt, Gardipee said.
He went under the water twice while swimming toward the boat, Morsette said, and was about 15 feet from the boat when he went down for the third and final time.
"He didn't even say anything," said Morsette, who placed the 911 call from his cell phone. "He didn't even make any effort to holler."
Moreno said he did not see Taylor attempt to rescue him. While he clung to the boat, Moreno could only see Rocky Boy Fish and Game warden Waylon Denny, who was swimming out behind Taylor.
"I was starting to get delusional," Moreno, 28, said today. "I started to see things. I was starting to get weak, sliding off the boat. I didn't think I could hold on."
The boat tipped when Norquay stood up after hooking a fish on his line, Moreno and authorities said. Moreno was in the front seat of the boat when Norquay stood up.
Doug Williams, Chouteau County sheriff and coroner, said the boat was too small for two people.
Search and rescue teams from Chouteau and Hill County in boats dragged the bottom of the lake, which is about 20 feet deep where Taylor was last seen. They searched the water for about 7 hours, until 1 a.m. this morning.
Because the rescue teams do not have certified divers, local law enforcement called in the search and rescue team from Lewis and Clark County.
Moreno was rescued by his brother-in-law, 19-year-old Mike Morsette, who used two car tires tied to 100 feet of thin, nylon rope to bring Moreno back to shore. Before Morsette entered the water, three other rescue attempts had failed. Taylor was the second to enter the water.
Moreno and Bruce Denny, who participated in the third attempt to rescue Moreno, were both treated at Northern Montana Hospital for hypothermia, Gardipee and Moreno said. They were released Monday night and are fine, Moreno said.
Authorities used an orange buoy to mark the spot where Taylor was last seen.
He was employed with Rocky Boy's police department for six years, Gardipee said.
A handful of Taylor's relatives and friends waited on the northwest edge of the reservoir this morning, observing the search for Taylor.
The reservoir is on the northern edge of Chouteau County, about 200 yards south of Lower Box Elder Road.