A Gallatin County Sheriff's Office deputy was fatally injured after becoming trapped under his vehicle while on his way to check on a stranded motorist in the Bridger Mountains Saturday night.
In a press release Sunday the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office identified the deputy as 31-year-old Jake Allmendinger. Allmendinger is survived by his parents Ron and Michelle Allmendinger, his wife Monica, and his children Bentley, Lexi and Kai, according to the press release.
Allmendinger and another deputy, Ryan Jern, were headed to check on a male motorist stranded on Fairy Lake Road in the Bridger Mountains Saturday after a woman called about the man at about 6 p.m.
The woman came across a man that had been staying in the area and was having car problems, but he appeared to be acting strange so she opted to call 911 instead of stopping to help, Sheriff Brian Gootkin said Sunday afternoon in a press conference in Bozeman.
At some point while attempting to reach the motorist the deputies' Chevrolet Tahoe began to slide backwards on icy roads caused by a storm moving through the area, according to Gootkin.
"Sometime during the slide Jake exited the driver's side of the vehicle and became trapped under the Chevy Tahoe," a press release on the incident says. Gootkin said that Jern was wearing a seat belt, readying for impact and when he turned around Allmendinger was no longer in the vehicle.
Jern then jumped out and found Allmendinger beneath the vehicle and tried to get him out, according to the sheriff.
A sheriff's office press release says "Ryan (Jern) attempted immediate assistance but was unable to save Jake."
The sheriff said he did not know if Allmendinger was wearing a seat belt before he went under the vehicle. It's unclear why Allmendinger exited the vehicle.
"Unfortunately the only person that knows is Jake," Gootkin said. "Speculation means nothing, it doesn't do us any good. We don't know why he left the vehicle."
The deputies were on the way to check on the motorist by about 6:50 p.m., and Jern called for help at about 7:41 p.m. The first Bridger Canyon Fire unit arrived at about 8 p.m. and Allmendinger was not returned to Bozeman until about 11 p.m., the sheriff said.
After Allmendinger was taken to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital search and rescue crews did get the stranded motorist out of the mountains.
"Our folks probably saved that guy's life," Gootkin said.
Calling the storm "totally predictable," Gootkin asked people going forward to plan ahead and think about not only themselves but the emergency responders and search and rescue volunteers that put themselves in danger to help people.
"That's exactly what those two were doing last night," Gootkin said. "They were going out to help someone."
You have free articles remaining.
Fairy Lake Road is a steep gravel road that leads to the Fairy Lake Campground about 22 miles north of Bozeman in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The Montana Highway Patrol's online incident tracking website places the scene of the incident near the road's intersection with Cache Creek Road, about a mile west of Bridger Canyon Road.
The sheriff described Fairy Creek Road's poor reputation during the press conference, but said he was not blaming the Forest Service for its condition.
"It's a bad road in the summertime dry," Gootkin said. "Then you let that storm come through last night. It's bad. It's a bad road."
Gootkin was clearly emotional at times during the press conference, at one point pausing briefly to collect himself before describing Allmendinger.
"Everybody that I talked to so far is like 'Everyone liked Jake.' He's one of those guys that, he's a good, good guy. He'll be missed," Gootkin said. "When people's faces light up when they're talking about him, that tells you everything."
The sheriff said there is no criminal aspect to this incident, and no policy or protocol in need of review.
"I will tell you what we are focusing on and that is our people. We are making sure that we have all of the resources, because everyone deals with this differently,' Gootkin said.
Saying his phone had been flooded with calls of support and that people have reached out to his agency wanting to send flowers and money, Gootkin asked people to be patient while they work to set up and coordinate ways to help. Information will eventually be available on the sheriff's office website, he said.
The sheriff's office plans to send out updates to media at night and in the morning in the coming days.
"We're gonna need help and we will accept that help but just be patient and let us work through this right now," Gootkin said. "And, again, our focus is on Jake's family."
Gootkin said he would be meeting with Allmendinger's immediate family after the press conference. The sheriff's office is treating it as a line of duty death, but it will be the family's decision on how to proceed, Gootkin said.
"Even though it's a line of duty death it's up to them what they want, because whatever they want, they're going to get," Gootkin said of the deputy's family.
Allmendinger had been a deputy since September 2017, a search and rescue volunteer for eight years and had worked as a dispatcher in the Gallatin County 911 center for more than seven years, according to the sheriff's office.
Multiple agencies responded Saturday night to Fairy Lake Road after the accident, including the Gallatin County Search and Rescue, the Montana Highway Patrol and Bridger Canyon Fire.
Allmendinger's death follows the death of sheriff's office search and rescue team member Travis Swanson, who died while rock climbing in July. Swanson had been with other search and rescue team members on Mount Cowen in Park County when a rockslide swept him down a slope, fatally injuring him.