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Billings man identified as person who died after fall into Boulder River at Natural Bridge
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Billings man identified as person who died after fall into Boulder River at Natural Bridge

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Natural Bridge Falls Picnic Area south of Big Timber.

The Boulder River pours from the rock at Natural Bridge Falls Picnic Area south of Big Timber.

The person presumed dead after falling into the Boulder River in the Natural Bridge Falls area has been identified as a 48-year-old man from Billings.

Joseph James Crawford II slipped while walking off a marked trail and fell 50 to 60 feet into the Boulder River on Sunday, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the Sweet Grass County Sheriff's Office.

Crawford was swept downstream, through the falls and into the canyon below, the sheriff's office says. 

The incident was reported to the sheriff's office at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Before his death, Crawford had been hiking in the Natural Bridge Area south of Big Timber, according to the press release. Crawford had been hiking with one other person.

Both the sheriff's office and Sweet Grass County Search and Rescue responded to the area Sunday, and search efforts continued through Monday with help from the U.S. Water Rescue Dive Team from Billings.

Monday at 5 p.m. active search efforts were suspended, but passive search efforts will continue through the coming weeks, according to the sheriff's office.

"An active search is putting people in the river, on the river, by the river, poking, prodding looking under rocks, under trees, everything like that," Sheriff Alan Ronneberg said by phone Tuesday after returning from the search area.

"Passive search is more just being aware, kind of having the word out to local ranchers to let us know if they see anything suspicious so that we can follow up on it."

The sheriff said that they have plans to fly a drone over the search area in the next few days, but said that the river was about 3 feet higher on Tuesday.

Crawford's death happened a day after a Sweet Grass County resident discovered the body of Billings resident Bradford Meadows near where he had been swept downstream while fishing near the Fourmile Campground in July 2019.

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