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Missing man found dead in Koocanusa Reservoir

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Hagadone News Network | July 26, 2023 1:00 AM

A Lincoln County man was found dead in Lake Koocanusa Wednesday, July 19, in the evening.

Lincoln County Sheriff Darren Short said a swimmer spotted the body of 47-year-old Johnathan Orr at about 5:30 p.m.

Authorities began searching for Orr after he dove from a 90-foot cliff into Koocanusa Reservoir Sunday evening, July 16.

Short said searchers used a remotely operated vehicle before the swimmer found Orr.

According to a press release from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, Orr jumped from the cliff near Pinkham Creek into the reservoir and didn't resurface.

After a 911 call was made at about 8 p.m. Sunday, Eureka Dispatch sent county deputies and Eureka-based Can-Am Search and Rescue to the scene.

When they arrived, deputies were told that Orr had been sitting near the water watching others jump from the cliff. Orr swam across the inlet and climbed the cliff to the top, approximately 90 feet above the water and then jumped.

One of the men who watched the jump immediately swam to the area of impact and searched for Orr but he didn’t resurface, according to the press release.

Can-Am Search and Rescue arrived with two boats and two jet skis and searched the area until dark but did not see Orr. The search was resumed Monday morning and continued throughout the day including divers and boats, but efforts were still unsuccessful.

On Tuesday, canines from David Thompson Search and Rescue and Can-Am responded to attempt to locate Orr. Additional divers from Flathead Search and Rescue along with a remote-operated vehicle responded and searched the area indicated by the canines but were also unsuccessful.

Orr's niece, who did not want to be publicly identified, alerted The Western News to Orr's disappearance and spoke about him briefly.

"It's a very terrible, unfortunate situation," she said. "John had a new job in Eureka and moved up there three weeks ago. He and my grandmother were very close and she's devastated."

The reservoir’s maximum depth is about 350 feet, with a mean depth of 125 feet, according to USGS data.