Ravalli County Sheriff's deputies responded to the West Fork of the Bitterroot on Friday, December 27, after two snowmobilers discovered a man who had fallen down an embankment trying to free his vehicle from deep snow.

Sheriff Chris Hoffman said the snowmobilers attempted to help the injured man who had injured himself so severely that he could not return to his vehicle.

"They attempted to render aid to this individual," Hoffman said. "They lit a fire, performed CPR and other forms of first aid, but when they were not able to get him to respond, they left the scene to get help."

Several agencies responded to the location near Painted Rocks Lake, southwest of Darby, including the Montana Highway Patrol, Darby and Hamilton ambulance crews, Painted Rocks Volunteer Fire Department and the West Fork Volunteer Fire Department.

Hoffman said the man, identified as John H. Sutherland, 63, of Marblehead, Ohio, died before he could be taken to a hospital. He was a part-time resident of the West Fork area.

"Mr. Sutherland had some blunt force trauma injuries, but the likely cause of death according to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula was hypothermia," Hoffman said. "It is clear that in the effort to clear his vehicle from the deep snow, Mr. Sutherland fell down the embankment and injured himself to the extent that he was unable to get back up to his vehicle."

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman