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051812 river search

Search and Rescue personnel probe the Clark Fork River near the Higgins Avenue bridge on Thursday, May 17, in search of a 19-year-old man who disappeared in the water Wednesday evening.

The body found over a week ago along the Clark Fork River in Alberton Gorge has been identified as that of Hieu Ho Le, 19, a Missoula man who drowned in May, authorities said Monday.

Le jumped off the Madison Street footbridge and disappeared into the river on May 16. Mineral County authorities discovered Le’s body June 30 on rocks in the Triple Bridges area of the Clark Fork River.

The Missoula Police Department continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding why Le jumped into the water, Detective Sgt. Bob Bouchee said Monday.

Police reports say Le and a female friend, who had been swimming in the river, jumped from the bridge that evening but only one of them made it to shore.

Missoula police spokesman Travis Welsh said in an earlier interview that the woman jumped into the water first.

“She hit the water and heard him hit the water behind her. She swam to shore and climbed up on the bank, then she turned and looked to see him struggling,” Welsh said.

Le was last seen just west of Kiwanis Park.

“He apparently got very close to shore. Then he went under and never came back up,” Welsh said.

The search for Le was called off on May 17 because of high water and the danger to searchers combing the riverbank in Missoula.

There was no sign of Le until June 30, when a body was found in Alberton Gorge. Dental records were sent from California to help identify Le, a former University of Montana student who continued to live in Missoula.

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