Rafting group stumbles upon Boeing planes in river

Crews successfully pulled one of the three Boeing 737 fuselages from the Clark Fork River in Montana. (CNN)

SUPERIOR, Mont. (CNN/KECI/NBC/APTN) — Crews successfully pulled one of the three Boeing 737 fuselages from the Clark Fork River in Montana, west of Missoula, on Monday.

They were from the wreckage of a train derailment last Thursday that happened in an area that’s very popular with rafting trips. The train was moving the Boeing plane parts to Renton for final assembly.

Will Wadley got a first-hand look — from a rafter’s-eye view.

With a strong and even runoff, conditions this year could hardly be better for rafting in Montana.

And this week on the Clark Fork, there’s an added bonus: something you have to see to believe.

“July Fourth, just above Fang Rapid, a lady was telling us to stay river right,” said rafting guide Josh Dickens, with Pangaea Rafting Company. “So I said, ‘OK,’ not thinking much to it, and there they were. My reaction, as you can imagine, was something along the lines of … speechless.”

Dickens describes what it was like to see the derailment wreckage for the first time.

“Staring, awestruck — same with my rafters,” he said. “I believe there quite a bit of silence for a moment. It kind of threw me off.”

In the days since then, the fuselages have been a source of excitement and disbelief.

“I think it feels unreal because you’re out here in nature, and everything looks so pristine,” said Spokane neighbor Sara Marks. “And then, all of sudden: Bam, there’s the fuselages.”

Marks already had her trip planned before she heard about the derailment on the news.

“I thought that the trip would be canceled, but it wasn’t,” she said.

“When you first come upon it, it looks like a plane just crashed into the side of a mountain,” said Diane Freeby, who came all the way from Indiana with her husband and six kids. “You can’t really plan for something like this — to see a big plane sitting in the water.”

“I’ve seen some interesting things in the water, but nothing like some giant 747 fuselages,” said Dickens.

“It’s a great day for us, probably not a great day for the railroad,” said Marks.

The 20-ton fuselages were attached to 50-ton flatbed train cars. The first took about 12 hours to remove.

All three are now out of the water, and the cause of the accident is under investigation.

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