Havre Daily News
A Havre man who died at Bear Paw Lake last week drowned after asking a companion to swim to the middle of the lake with him, a Hill County sheriff's report said.
John C. Haldemann III, 21, drowned Aug. 16 during a fishing trip with four other people in Beaver Creek Park. His death has been ruled an accident.
Sheriff Greg Szudera said today that three of the four people with Haldemann were "extremely intoxicated," but that toxicology tests on Haldemann's blood and urine were not yet available.
According to a report by chief deputy Monte Reichelt, Haldemann went to the lake with four people who had picked him up at Elmer Carpenter Park in Havre.
Jason Skidmore, 21, told the deputy that the group arrived at a fishing spot on the southwest corner of the lake between 3:30 and 4 p.m. Skidmore said the group was fishing and horsing around when Haldemann, while fully clothed, jumped in the water and told Skidmore to swim out toward the middle of the lake with him, the report said.
Skidmore jumped in and they began swimming, Skidmore said, adding that Haldemann "went way out there," according to the sheriff's report. When the two men began to swim back to shore, Haldemann rapidly swam toward Skidmore and got to within 10 feet of him when he suddenly stopped, the report said.
Haldemann called out for help twice, then disappeared underwater, Skidmore said.
Skidmore got out of the water and took most of his clothes off. He then went back in the water and dove down several times looking for Haldemann.
Skidmore told deputies he gave up after several minutes because he couldn't see underwater and he couldn't dive any deeper because his ears hurt.
Skidmore yelled back to the people on shore to call the police. Two people ran south until they found a cabin and called 911, according to the report.
The Sheriff's Office received the call shortly after 4:30 p.m. Deputies interviewed witnesses and photographed the area while a Havre firefighter searched the water for Haldemann.
When the firefighter could not find Haldemann, the Sheriff's Office called search and rescue diver Joel Green.
According to the coroner's report, Green found Haldemann's body about 8 p.m. on the bottom of the lake in about 12 feet of water.
Deputies examined the body and found no evidence of foul play, according to the investigative report.
A partial autopsy performed by a pathologist at Northern Montana Hospital also indicates the drowning was an accident, Szudera said.
Blood and urine samples were taken from Haldemann's body and sent to the State Crime Lab for toxicology reports, he added. The results are not yet available.
The blood-alcohol content of Skidmore and two of the three other witnesses was more than twice the legal limit for driving, Reichelt's report said.
Szudera said Haldemann had been released from jail the night before he drowned.
According to Havre police, Haldemann was arrested Aug. 12 on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia and state District Court warrants.