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A teenager died after he jumped in the Clark Fork River to flee law enforcement Tuesday morning, according to the Missoula County Sheriff's Office.

The 16-year-old boy from Sanders County, who has not yet been identified, was pulled by river rescue teams from the Clark Fork near the Russell Street Bridge in Missoula after an intensive search by boat and air that lasted more than an hour. 

The incident began around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, after the Missoula County Sheriff's Office received a report of a stolen vehicle from Washington state. Deputies located it near the 1400 block of East Broadway, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brenda Bassett.

Around 10:40 a.m., Bassett confirmed the suspect, a juvenile, had died. 

At 7:58 a.m., the University of Montana set out a text alert warning people of a possibly armed suspect in the area near the Kim Williams trail. 

UM Police Chief Marty Ludemann said initial reports from the traffic stop indicated there may have been a firearm in the stolen vehicle. Ludemann said it was unknown whether the person who jumped into the river had the firearm, so UM authorities put out the alert "just to be on the safe side."

When sheriff's deputies stopped the vehicle, one person fled and jumped into the river. Law enforcement detained three others in the car, Bassett said. Deputies were unaware anyone in the vehicle was armed, she said.

The person who'd gone into the river came out, spoke briefly with law enforcement, and jumped back in, she said.

"He did go under, and there was a search that ensued," Bassett said. 

Missoula County Search and Rescue pulled him from the river onto a boat at around 8:50 a.m. and moved him onto the ramp near Ogren Park to administer CPR. He was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead, Bassett said. 

Members of the Ravalli County Coroner's Office will be investigating the cause of death.

In addition to Search and Rescue, the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, and various fire departments assisted in the intensive search, which saw law enforcement fanning out along both sides of the river, and WaveRunners deployed on the water.

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According to a news release from the Missoula Fire Department, firefighters were dispatched shortly before 8 a.m. on the river for the rescue near the Van Buren Street footbridge. The department launched two watercraft and traveled upstream to the site where police had spotted the juvenile.

"As the rescue craft were en route, the patient submerged and drifted with the current," the news release said.

Units from police and fire posted authorities on bridges to serve as lookouts, the news release said; Life Flight also responded "and was a great asset in locating the patient."

The Clark Fork through Missoula was running a little below normal for the end of spring runoff at 5,030 cubic feet per second. Nevertheless, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Vivaca Crowser said it remained dangerous for unprepared swimmers. The water temperature on Tuesday was 60 degrees.

“That cold water can impair your ability to move even if you’re a strong swimmer,” Crowser said. “It’s still moving fast, and there’s a lot of debris in it.”

Reporter Rob Chaney contributed to this story.

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