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MT: Bitterroot Valley hunter found dead in Big Creek area

October 18, 2010

Bitterroot Valley hunter found dead in Big Creek area 

HAMILTON - The body of a missing hunter from the Hamilton area was recovered in the Big Creek area northwest of Victor on Saturday afternoon by Ravalli County Search and Rescue, one day after family members reported him missing.

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman confirmed that the man was Chris K. O'Brien, 46.

The Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula is examining the cause of death.

According Hoffman, his office received word that there was an overdue hunter on Friday.

"He had set up camp on Oct. 10 six miles from the Big Creek trailhead," Hoffman said. "There was some expectation that he would come out in the middle of last week. When he didn't show up, Forest Service rangers noticed that his camp didn't look occupied. His family rode up and couldn't find him either."

The sheriff's office and Ravalli County Search and Rescue began to search for the man Friday and into the night.

"Everyone stayed in the hills Friday and continued looking," Hoffman said. "We had 10 people looking, along with another half-dozen civilian friends and family members looking."

St. Patrick Hospital's LifeFlight helicopter was also involved in the search. On Saturday, the LifeFlight crew spotted a piece of camping gear above the original camp and directed Search and Rescue staff to the site. Searchers on the ground found the piece of gear and from there they followed footprints to the missing hunter.

"Unfortunately, when they found him he was deceased and he had been there for a couple of days," Hoffman said. "We got a helicopter to recover him and he was taken from there to the state crime lab in Missoula. We are still waiting on the cause of death, but it doesn't look like he met a violent end and it didn't appear that his death was caused by an animal. We are looking into whether he took a fall or if there was some underlying medical issue.".

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