Two men found dead after attempting to cross frozen Montana lake

Two men were found dead in a Montana lake after they went missing while trying to cross a frozen section of the lake on snowmobiles, police said.

A group of five men attempted to cross Seeley Lake on Friday night after eating dinner at a local restaurant, but only two made it across the lake, Missoula County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Paige Pavalone said Saturday. One of those two crawled back across the ice on his belly and pulled a third man, who was yelling for help, out of the water, Pavalone said.


He was taken to a hospital and treated for hypothermia while police searched the lake with a helicopter for the two missing men.

At about 10 p.m. local time, about four hours after police first received calls concerning the incident, the bodies of the two missing men were found floating in the lake.

Their avalanche bags, designed to help a person stay on top of the snow during an avalanche, had deployed and kept them afloat, officials said.

Pavalone said a cause of death has not yet been determined and that the names of the two men, ages 27 and 29, have not been released.

Pavalone said the Seeley Lake area, about 55 miles outside Missoula, is a popular recreation spot in the winter. But this year, she said, "the lake was not completely frozen over, it has been unseasonably warm and mild."  

Recent winters have been warmer than in the past, with temperatures in the mid-30s as opposed to the low 20s, said Marci Niles, 35, who works at a local sports equipment rental shop.

Follow @jpanzar for national news