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Hero Down: Hughes County Chief Deputy Lee Weber Dies After Diving Into River To Save Son

Fort Pierre, SD – Hughes County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Chief Deputy Lee Weber died on July 3 while rescuing his eight-year-old son from the swift current of the Missouri River.

The tragic incident occurred downstream from the Oahe Dam at approximately 2:51 p.m., the Capital Journal reported.

Deputy Weber, 37, was boating with his eight-year-old son when the boy suddenly fell off of the moving vessel, the Stanley County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) said in a news release.

He immediately dove overboard in an attempt to save his child, but “was swept away by the river’s current,” the SCSO said.

Deputy Weber was not wearing a life jacket when he jumped into the water.

“When you are trying to rescue somebody, if you are using a life jacket you can’t get under the water to grab them. So, you’d go in without a life jacket,” SCSO Chief Deputy Greg Swanson told the Capital Journal on Monday. “I would do that. If someone goes under and you are wearing a life jacket, how can you go under the surface and bring them up?”

Deputy Weber’s son was pulled to safety by another group of boaters nearby, but the deputy hasn’t been seen since.

Approximately 18 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies immediately launched a massive search for Deputy Weber.

“The search is still on,” SCSO Chief Deputy Greg Swanson told the Capital Journal on Monday. “Everything that can be done is being done.”

“That includes rescue boats, divers, drones, cadaver dogs and the South Dakota Highway Patrol airplane,” the SCSO said.

On Monday, the HCSO confirmed in a Facebook post that Deputy Weber is presumed to have died during the rescue effort.

“With heavy hearts we regret to announce the passing of Chief Deputy Lee Weber. Lee lost his life Friday, July 3rd, while saving his young son from the Missouri River,” the department said. “Our office extends our sincere condolences to the family of Chief Deputy Weber.”

Deputy Weber was a “decorated veteran of the South Dakota National Guard,” the HCSO noted.

He was deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005, and to Afghanistan from 2009-2010, the Capital Journal reported.

Deputy Weber joined the HCSO in 2015, and was promoted to the rank of chief deputy in 2019, according to his department.

“Lee was a co-worker, friend, and mentor to all. He will be greatly missed by his law enforcement family and those whom he was sworn to serve,” the HCSO said.

Deputy Weber leaves behind his wife, Wendy, and his six children, LaToya, Magnus, Amadeo, Lexinn, Emalee and Samuel, according to a fundraising page established to help his family in the wake of their loss.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hughes County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Lee Weber, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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