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Glacier Park officials urge visitors to take safety precautions

By Alli Friedman, KCFW Reporter, afriedman@kcfw.com
Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Jul 17 2014 05:36:39 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 17 2014 11:18:04 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

There has been safety concerns at Glacier National Park after several accidents happened in a matter of days.

On Saturday, a 33-year-old woman slipped into McDonald Creek and was swept over some waterfalls. Rescuers took her to the hospital but she since then she has died.

Then, on Tuesday a 12-year-old boy fell into the same creed while playing on a log. A passerby jumped in after him, and both survived without injuries.

That same day, Glacier National Park Rangers responded to a raft accident on the North Fork of the Flathead River after a family from California flipped their raft. A boat picked them up and took them to safety.

All of these incidents have happened very early on in the season. That's why NBC Montana wanted to find out why and experience first-hand the dangers that go along with being in the outdoors.

"People come out here on vacation and they're here to have a good time but sometimes they forget to use a little common sense," said Glacier National Park Ranger, Steve Dodd.

That's the answer he gave in response to all the accidents that have happened. He says the two leading causes of death in Glacier National Park are falls and cold water drownings.

Dodd says the reason is because of loose ground and slippery rocks. Glacier National Park is sedimentary rock, causing portions of rock to constantly peal off and fall to the ground, making your footing unstable.

"Edges of the water are very slippery and wet, very hazardous, and you can go into the water within a fraction of a second," Dodd said.

NBC Montana wanted to find out just how dangerous those edges could be. There were spots along the McDonald creek that were evident accident prone areas.

But, it's not just paying attention to where you're walking but what's around you.

Park rangers say that people often find themselves in danger along the hiking trails, not knowing they may encounter a bear, moose, elk, or deer. All animals that can be unpredictable.

For these reasons, officials want to remind everyone to read the safety signs and just be aware, because there won't always be park rangers around to keep everyone safe.

"Remember we have 700 miles of trails to cover in Glacier National Park and not as many rangers as we'd like," Dodd said.

As the summer months move along, more high elevation trails are starting to open up. Trails that bring on different types of safety concerns.

So, officials ask you to match your skill level with what you are doing. This will help prevent an accident.