Area Man Drowns at Canyon Ferry

Bozeman Daily Chronicle
By Chronicle Staff

A 63-year-old Bozeman man drowned Saturday evening after his fishing boat capsized on Canyon Ferry Reservoir, 20 miles east of Helena.

George Christie, a retired dairyman from the Bridger Canyon area, was fishing with his nephew when strong winds pushed their boat back to shore, according to Christie's daughter, Jeannette Jensen of Manhattan.

Before the fishermen were able to make it to safety, however, their small, motorized fishing boat flipped over, spilling the men into the water sometime after 6 p.m.

Both men were wearing life jackets, but the boat appeared to have struck Christie in the head, Jensen said.

Christie's nephew dove into the cold water repeatedly attempting to rescue his uncle, she said.

When he was unable to do so, he struggled to swim to shore and then ran to a phone. He called 911 around 8 p.m., Jensen said.

Winds at the southern tip of Canyon Ferry reached 31 mph on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Great Falls.

Christie and his wife, Marie Christie, owned Christie Holsteins, which they purchased from Christie's parents in 1970. The couple ran the business until the mid-1990s and sold their milk to Darigold Farm, Jensen said.

Born in Bozeman, Christie started learning to play the guitar about five years ago. In a short span of time he honed his skills, delighting his friends and family members with his music.

"I was actually shocked by how good he was," Jensen, his daughter, said.

In addition to playing the guitar, Christie enjoyed making log furniture, including beds, swings and benches.

He was a handyman who was always willing to help his family, Jensen said. When Jensen suddenly inherited a bunny, for instance, Christie quickly completed a handmade bunny cage, she said.

Her father was healthy and fit and always on the go.

"Even though he didn't have to get out of bed at 8, he did," Jensen said.