WEST GLACIER — Officials with Montana's Glacier National Park say a Bitterroot man who was taking photographs of the scenery fell into a creek, was swept into a culvert and plunged off a steep cliff to his death.
Park officials said in a statement Monday that 26-year-old Robert Durbin of Corvallis died Saturday.
They say Durbin was taking photos along Haystack Creek next to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is known for its dramatic scenery and vertigo-inducing heights.
He fell into the creek and was washed through a culvert that goes beneath the road and empties into a 100-foot drop down a cliff.
The popular road was closed to traffic for about an hour while rangers and rescuers found and recovered the man's body.
Glacier officials say the death isn't considered suspicious. Falls are a leading cause of death in the park.
Durbin's brother, William, of Hamilton, said Durban was a creative man who loved to fish.
"He had a heart of gold and would do anything for anybody," Durbin said. "He was always smiling. He was always happy. His major passion was fishing. He worked so he could fish."
Durbin worked at Ironhaus in Hamilton, which is a company that specializes in building custom fireplaces and hearths.
"He liked to create stuff," Durbin said. "He would make his own knives and other things. He was very creative."
Durbin said he was told his brother wanted to stop and take a photo of a waterfall while driving on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
"He lost his footing and fell," Durbin said. "He wasn't wearing the proper shoes for that. I was told he had flipflops on. It was something silly, but I've done it. My son has done it. It was just an unfortunate accident."
Glacier National Park spokesperson Lauren Alley said the danger is real around any fast-moving water in the park.
"The message is that creeks and waterfalls in the park are certainly really exciting and attention-grabbing," Alley said. "There are a lot of them. We always ask people to not walk, play or attempt to take photos on the slippery rocks. It's so easy to fall."
Parents need to be especially careful with their children.
"Kids love to play near the water," she said. "If people do fall in the fast-moving water, there are a lot of rocks and logs that can cause injuries. People need to be extremely careful around rocks that are wet."
William Durbin said his brother didn't have any insurance. Durbin established a gofundme site at gofundme.com/robert-robbie-durbin-fund to help the family offset some of the costs.
All six of the Bitterroot Beanery locations also are accepting donations and cards that will be given the family. Durbin's sister, Jessie Madruga, works for that company.
A celebration of Durbin's life will be held at River Park in Hamilton Saturday, July 29, from 5 to 7 p.m.
More than five inches of rain has fallen in and around area of Glacier National Park, causing some fairly significant flooding in the area and prompting the closure of several roads.
Parts of Going To The Sun Road have been closed due to a culvert being washed out while on Blankenship Road and North Fork Road, MTN News saw some of the worst flooding.
Flathead County Road and Bridge Supervisor Ovila Byrd says it was a "no-brainer" to close roads Monday morning, and as rain persisted throughout the day more closures were expected.
In Glacier National Park, the Going To The Sun Road was closed to traffic two miles past Apgar Village.
“Road crews are working on it right now. We do know that from the recent storm, we saw snow as low as Haystack Creek which is about 5,500 feet. There were six inches at about that point," said Tim Raines with Glacier National Park.
Ovila Byrd with the Flathead County Road and Bridge Department told MTN News that there really wasn’t much that could be done in flooded areas until the storm dissipated, and then they would be able to assess damage and erosion from there.
In the meantime, residents of the area are asked to travel only as necessary and avoid heavily flowing water in their vehicles if at all possible.
The Flathead County Sheriff’s Department has placed several road closure signs in the area and people are asked to observe those for their own safety.
Here is information from the Glacier National Park website:
Currently 15.5 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel.
Visitors can drive 2.0 miles from the West Entrance to Foot of Lake McDonald, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook.
The section of the road between Foot of Lake McDonald and Jackson Glacier Overlook is closed due to the weather.
On the west side, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open for vehicle traffic to the foot of Lake McDonald due to localized flooding, approximately 2 miles from the West Entrance. Lake McDonald Lodge guests and employees, inholders, Sprague Creek campers, and essential personnel are allowed through the closure at this time.
** BE ADVISED THAT DUE TO HEAVY RAINFALL THERE IS MINOR FLOODING ON THE GOING TO THE SUN ROAD 2.5 MILES UP LAKE MCDONALD. TRAFFIC IS REDUCED TO ONE LANE TRAFFIC FOR A SMALL SECTION OF ROAD WITH FLAGGERS DIRECTING TRAFFIC**
On the east side, the road is open to Jackson Glacier Overlook, approximately 13 miles past the St. Mary Entrance.
The Inside North Fork Road is currently closed at Logging Creek RS and Fish Creek. Past flooding events have damaged the road.
The southern end of the road is now open to Camas Creek, approximately 6.5 miles north of the Fish Creek junction.
The Cut Bank Road is currently closed at Park Boundary due to the weather. Some snow is still on the road, but it is drivable to the park boundary. Hiker/Biker access is allowed beyond the closed gate with wintery conditions still existing.
(MONDAY, MAY 23, 2016) The weekend storms and heavy rain have laid claim to several roads in Flathead County.
Flathead County Public Works officials tell MTN News that the biggest problem in on the North Fork Road, about nine miles outside of Columbia Falls, where the road is closed due to a washout near Blankenship Road.
Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park was also hit by a washout.
The famed road is closed approximately two miles east of the Apgar Visitors Center after a culvert was washed away.
Flooding has also forced county officials to close the west-side road by the Hungry Horse Reservoir after debris blocked a culvert in the area of the Hungry Horse Dam.
Some areas of the Flathead have been hit by as much as 4½ inches of rain, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a Flood Warning for areas in and around Glacier National Park until 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
Reports of standing water on roads have come in from areas of West Glacier, Columbia Falls, and Hungry Horse.
Some other locations that could experience flooding include Columbia Falls, West Glacier, Lake McDonald, Apgar, Nyack, Hungry Horse, Martin City and Coram, according to the NWS Missoula office.