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Missing Floater Found Safe at Home After Thousands Spent in Search

Samantha French
Photo courtesy of Missoula County Sheriff’s Department

The search for missing UM student Samantha French has ended without tragedy.

French went missing after floating with about nine friends on the afternoon of Sunday July 29, and within 12 hours a full missing persons investigation was underway.

“It’s always a high priority when someone goes missing, especially around water,” said Missoula County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Paige Pavalone. “We had two entire patrol shifts driving around looking and doing everything they could to find her. Then in addition to that we had Life Flight.”

Pavalone went with other officials to French’s apartment to investigate and see if perhaps she had simply failed to answer her phone. While there, Pavalone says French appeared unharmed.

Apparently Fench had received a ride from a passerby and spent the night at a friends house without communicating her plans to the other nine friends she had left at the river.

All in all, a simple failure of communication ended up costing local agencies multiple thousands of dollars in time and personnel (Life Flight alone is 5 to $6,000), not to mention all of the time devoted by the local volunteer search and rescue team.

Pavalone says the incident is a good reminder of the importance for floaters to have a back-up of what to do and where to go if a float group is split up.

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