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Emergency crews rescued a man Thursday night after he became trapped in a tunnel that carries irrigation water under the Rimrocks from the north side of downtown to Alkali Creek. 

The man was floating the Billings Bench Water Association Canal with two companions shortly before 8 p.m. 

"Three guys tried to go through the tunnel," said Billings Police Sgt. Neil Lawrence. "Two came out, one didn't."

Somewhere in the the tunnel, the group's flotation device, an inflatable couch, capsized and the three males -- two men in their 20s and one juvenile -- tumbled into the water. 

The tunnel empties into a canal above the 300 block of Alkali Creek Road. Two floaters crawled out of the ditch there and ran down to the back door of Jane Gilstrap, shouting for help. 

Her husband called 911.

"They came through with a dog," she said. "But the third one, we waited and he didn't come through."

Crews located him near the entrance on the downtown side of the tunnel. He had managed to grab hold of a concrete outcropping near the top of the tunnel, about 60 feet from the entrance.

The current, swelled with Thursday's rainstorm, was too strong to swim against. 

Rescue crews put a diver from the U.S. Water Rescue Dive Team into the water. He was able to reach the man and pull him out. He had been trapped in the tunnel nearly an hour.

Police did not identify the three floaters. The rescued man was taken to St. Vincent Healthcare for treatment. The other two males and the dog were not injured, police said.

Helping in the rescue were Billings police officers, the Billings Fire Department, a Yellowstone County Sheriff's deputy and an American Medical Response crew.

Emergency crews regularly help rescue people from the canal.

"We've had this happen before here a couple times," said Gilstrap, who said she expects that it will happen again.

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.