PRIEST RIVER — Bonner County Sheriff’s officials said a man was mortally injured after crashing his pickup truck into the lower west branch of Priest River on Tuesday night.
Gary Allen, 75, of Priest River, is believed to have succumbed to hypothermia after he was rescued from the river.
The crash happened shortly before 7 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 57 and Bear Paw Road, near Torelle Falls and the Falls Inn tavern. The vehicle was submerged up to its windows.
A sheriff’s dive team arrived on scene, but had to contend with below-freezing water temperatures and a current which interfered with opening the rig’s door so Allen could be rescued. With the help of personnel on the bank of the river, rescuers used ropes and a harness to rescue him.
Allen was taken to Newport Community Hospital and transferred to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he passed away due to complications from exposure, sheriff’s officials said.
Temperatures in the river were measured at 27.5 degrees.
Sheriff’s Lt. Ror Lakewold said Allen was turning off the highway and onto Bear Paw Road when he crashed into the river. Lakewold said it was not clear Wednesday what caused Allen to plunge into the river, although alcohol use is being considered.
“It’s being investigated as a contributing factor,” said Lakewold.