Jesse Travers Hubbell, 40, drowned on June 17, probably due to equipment malfunction, while filming for a political ad for Democratic Senate candidate John Mues. Mues is a Navy veteran and certified scuba diver, who was considering running against Republican Sen. Steve Daines in next year’s election, authorities said on Thursday, according to NBC.
The men were working at a depth of at least 60 feet and the water temperature this time of year is about 60 and 64 degrees (16 and 18 degrees Celsius), Greg Lemon, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman, told NBC.
Police didn’t rule out the possibility of hypothermia at first, but both men wore wet suits and were only in the water for about 10 minutes when it happened.
“We have ruled it as an accident, and the cause was drowning,” Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton told NBC. “We’re still looking into what were the causal factors.”
It is unclear what exactly happened, but Mues apparently tried to save Hubbell, but eventually lost him, and came to the surface without him, Dutton said.
Mues incurred some minor injuries and was treated at Saint Peters Health and released later that day. Hubbell is said to have had some diving experience, but it is unknown exactly how much.
Emergency responders searched in vain on Monday. The next day, Hubbell was located by a sonar crew from Flathead County, and divers from Flathead and Lewis and Clark Counties recovered his body on Wednesday.
Hubbell was from Brookline, Massachusetts and was reportedly recently married. He had been working as a freelance producer for 17 years, most recently working on political videos, according to close friend and former colleague, Jimmy Jay Frieden of Boston Digital Productions.
Frieden said Hubbell was quite adventurous but always very safety-minded. “There’s nobody I know who was more aware of what was going on on set, who always had your back and was super smart,” Frieden said, according to the Daily Mail.
Former co-worker Dan Casey said he was stunned by Hubbell’s death. “He was an asset in any crew,” Casey said, according to NBC. “If Jesse was on the crew, you knew you were going to have a good day.”
Mues, from Loma, was planning to announce his Senate candidacy soon, according to The Hill.
He did have a website dedicated to his senatorial bid, where he describes himself as a fourth-generation Montana native, a Navy veteran, an engineer, and a teacher. Soon after the accident, the website was taken offline, and Mues has not responded to any requests for comment.
On June 20, Mues issued a statement saying the accident was “tragic.” He and his wife also extended their “deepest condolences” to Hubbell’s wife, family, and friends. Mues thanked the hospital staff at Fort Harrison “for their dedication and professionalism in this circumstance, and in all they do.”
On June 21, Sheriff Dutton issued said that an autopsy ruled Hubbell had died of accidental drowning, the Billings Gazette reported.
It is unclear whether Mues will continue his plan to run as a senator.