MTPR

Man's Body Found In Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald

Mar 28, 2019

A missing Arizona man’s body was found in a Glacier National Park lake Tuesday.

The call came in Tuesday morning, "reporting that a member of their family was missing, that they thought that he might be in Glacier National Park," says Lauren Alley, spokesperson for the park. 

She says rangers immediately began searching the park for signs of the 48-year-old man, identified Thursday as 48-year-old Wei Liu of Tempe, Arizona.

They found his car near the Lake McDonald Lodge. But crews couldn’t find the person himself — at least on land.

They needed to search the water, too. So they called Richard Schuster, a detective at the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.

"And I’m also the dive team leader," Schuster says.

That dive team’s been around for about a decade and a half, and it consists mostly of volunteers. Flathead County has lots of water: rivers, lakes — all kinds of places where people or evidence could disappear beneath the surface.

By the time Schuster’s team arrived on the scene, the Park Service had found the man’s camera and phone on a dock. They had a location.

"So the first thing that I did was I got into my drysuit, put on a mask and snorkel and fins, and just swam the area to see if I could find — if I could spot him.

The lake is partially frozen, and conditions under the water are treacherous. But the team had been to Lake McDonald a couple weekends earlier to practice ice diving, so they were prepared.

Schuster eyed a whitish figure, but couldn’t quite make out what it was. The team deployed a device that resembles a small, remote-controlled camera-meets-submarine to get up close in the depths around the object.

"It turned out that that's exactly where our victim was," Shuster says.

He says it’s hard to find anything underwater. It’s dark, murky and cold. So from the perspective of the dive team, the operation was a success.

"For the family, it’s a tragedy, but at the same time they don’t have to go through that long wait to try to figure out what happened to their loved one."

Park Service spokesperson Lauren Alley says no foul play is suspected. The investigation is ongoing, and she says since there were no witness it’s hard to say for sure, but it’s likely the man slipped or fell through the ice.

She says water is a leading cause of death in the park.

"People really need to keep in the back of their mind that there is a lot of risk when they do recreate on public lands and that there are some activities that even though they may have done many times before and have been just fine, certainly very serious things can happen," Alley says.

This story was updated 03/28/19 with the name of the victim.