Missing Chance Geery Memorial Sword Returned by Student After River Search [AUDIO]
UPDATE: Saturday, January 18, 6:00 a.m.
News partners NBC Montana/KECI reported Friday afternoon, January 17, that a student returned the sword that was stolen from a memorial to the late Chance Geery. The student returned the sword after members of the Missoula City Fire Department spent over a hour in a fruitless search for the sword off the Higgins Street Bridge in the Clarl Fork River. No charges have yet been filed.
Two members of the Missoula Fire Department braved the frigid waters of the Clark Fork River for over a hour on Friday, January 17, in an unsuccessful effort to retrieve a memorial sword dedicated to the late Chance Geery.
Hellgate High School Resource Officer Jim Johnson said the sword was part of a "Tough Guy" memorial presented to Hellgate High School by Chance's father, Todd Geery.
"His father provided this memorial last fall and presented it to the school and they placed it in the hallway," Johnson said. "It's a toughness award which will be given to a Hellgate football player every year. Right before Christmas, somebody took the sword away from the memorial and out of the building. We got some information that the sword had been thrown in the river."
Johnson said that's when the Missoula City Fire Department became involved.
"I asked the fire department if they would help us out, and they didn't even hesitate," Johnson said. "So they came out to the Higgins Street Bridge to try to find the sword."
Battalion Chief Troy Ault described the search effort that got underway at about 11:30 a.m.
"At this point we're just going to go down there and have a look at the situation," Ault said. "We'll see if we can just reach into the water and grab the sword, or if something else may be needed. We've got a cat raft and a couple of guys in dry suits who will try to find it."
Firemen Randy Okon and Blake Meyers donned their dry suits and took the cat raft into the river about 30 feet out to where a snag had lodged against the Higgins Street Bridge abutment. Two firemen with radios atop the bridge gave them directions as to where the sword might be located. Using a metal weight attached to a long strap, Okon cast over and over again into the water, hoping to dislodge the sword from the river bottom. At one point, Okon even donned a pair of goggles and stuck his face in the freezing water for a better look. Unfortunately, the effort was unsuccessful, and the two returned to shore.
Johnson said he will continue to investigate the theft.
"I'm going to keep interviewing kids and get as much information as I can," Johnson said. "Of course, I'd like to find the culprit and hold him accountable for this. I'd really love to find the sword, because it would mean a lot to Chance's father, Todd, and it means a lot to the kids on the football team, so I'm going to do everything I can to get that sword back."
Geery was killed on April 1, 2013, while he was walking with his girlfriend on the sidewalk on Mullan Road near the county jail, when a vehicle driven by a visiting professor at the University of Montana jumped the curb and struck him. He was 18 years old. The South Korean woman was charged with misdemeanor distracted driving and received a light sentence.
The speed limit on Mullan Road where the accident happened has now been lowered to 35 miles per hour.
Hellgate High School Resource Officer Jim Johnson