Two different dive teams have tried to find the truck of a Boisean who is believed to have crashed into the Salmon River north of Riggins in late June, according to an Idaho County Sheriff’s detective.
Sheriff’s investigators were hopeful they’d locate John “Randy” French and his truck later in the summer, once river levels dropped. But low visibility and the strong current continued to make the search treacherous.
“The Salmon River is a beast. ... You never know when a vehicle goes in the river if you’re going to be able to find the vehicle or the person,” Idaho County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Hewson said.
French traveled from Boise to Riggins on June 29. He was expected home July 1 but never arrived.
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He was last seen in the parking lot of a Riggins motel on the night of June 29. French was making plans for fishing the next day but was gone the next morning before the arranged trip. There were reports that French seemed confused and disoriented and may have been suffering a health problem.
French worked at the Idaho Tax Commission, according to one of his friends and his LinkedIn account. Attempts to reach his son for this story were unsuccessful.
Hewson said they found physical evidence that French’s truck struck boulders and went into the river at milepost 201.3 on U.S. Highway 95, about 6 miles north of Riggins. The area is near the Fiddle Creek Fruit Stand.
The river is 20-50 feet deep in that area, depending on the time of the year, but it’s not the depth that’s the real problem, Hewson said.
“It’s the visibility,” he said. “Most of the Salmon River, you can only see 2 to 3 feet in front of you. It’s not like the Clearwater River, which has really good visibility and clarity.”
Dive teams from the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office and Riggins searched the river. Combined, they did five searches, Hewson said.
Visibility improved to 4 or 5 feet in August but the current was nasty, he said. Divers don’t use ropes, so they are at the mercy of the river.
“You find yourself crashing into boulders and debris,” Hewson said. “You cannot swim against it. ... As it’s taking you downstream, the danger is that it’s going to jam you into a rock.”
The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office dive team won’t be diving that section of the river again to look for French’s truck.
“This is hard on us because we know how hard it is on the family,” Hewson said. “We just can’t with the risk involved here.”
But they will continue to closely watch the river and riverbanks. Others are watching, too.
“Rafters, fishermen, jetboaters — everybody who lives in this area — when the river takes somebody, they’re aware of it,” Hewson said. “We just hope and pray for the family that we’re able to recover him.”