BILLINGS — Members of the Rocky Mountain College women's soccer team were uninjured after a floating trip Monday down the Yellowstone River required a rescue near Columbus.
The group of 22 women were floating on inner tubes that had been tied together when they became entangled in a partially submerged tree west of Columbus, Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger said Wednesday.
"They all got out on their own, but then they were stuck on an island" in the river, he said.
Crews from the fire department and Stillwater County Search and Rescue used a pair of motor boats to ferry the women to shore after the incident was reported at about 1:30 p.m., Cowger said. The rescue took about an hour and a half, and none of the women suffered any injuries requiring medical attention, he said.
Not all of the women were wearing life vests at the time, Cowger said. The group had put in at the Holmgren Fishing Access about 6 river miles upstream from the Montana Highway 78 bridge south of Columbus.
Cowger said the downed tree was also the cause of a similar river rescue two or three weeks ago, in which one of the victims had gotten stuck in the branches.
"That one was fortunate, the way he got tangled up in that tree, that could have easily been a fatality," he said. "With the flooding conditions and the high water we had earlier, things have definitely changed on the river ... Not everything meets the eye out there, so everyone has to be really aware."
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Rocky Mountain College men's and women's soccer head coach Richard Duffy said his players had Monday off. Monday afternoon he got a call from a couple players letting him know that everyone was all right but that they'd gotten themselves into trouble on the river.
"I guess they underestimated the power of the river, a few of them were kind of scraped up, but not too bad," Duffy said.
The float was an event organized by players and not a school sponsored event, the coach said.
The team has since gotten together and talked about the incident and the players wanted to put it behind them, Duffy said.
A recent Cascade Collegiate Conference preseason poll picked the team to finish third, after finishing 9-2 in conference play in the 2017 season.
The team is scheduled for an exhibition match Friday against Montana State University Billings at Yellowjacket Field on the MSUB campus.