A Gallatin County Sheriff's deputy is dead after falling roughly three stories while rock climbing in Hyalite Canyon.

The deputy, identified as 35-year-old John “Amos” Ridenour, went with his son and neighbor early Labor Day morning to Practice Rock to teach the boy how to climb, said Sheriff Brian Gootkin. The popular climbing destination is about 10 miles south of Bozeman.

Ridenour climbed the route to do rope work from above, said Gootkin. While atop the rock around 8:20 a.m., Ridenour fell about 35 to 40 feet to his death.

“The neighbor saw it happen but the son didn't, thank God,” Gootkin said.

Gallatin County Sheriff's Search and Rescue and the Rae-Sourdough Fire Department — along with many sheriff's deputies who came of their own volition — responded to the scene.

It took several hours to recover Ridenour's body, which had to be roped out of the area on a backboard, Gootkin said.

The sheriff added that he had escorted the body to a funeral home shortly before an afternoon press conference at the Gallatin County jail.

Ridenour came to Bozeman from Virginia Beach, Va. He worked initially for the Montana State University Police Department before joining the sheriff's office in September 2005.

He served as a patrol deputy before moving to drug task force for a number of years, said Undersheriff Dan Springer. Ridenour had recently moved back to patrol and also served as a SWAT team leader. Springer noted that Ridenour was in “phenomenal shape.”

Ridenour is survived by his wife and two young children.

“It's obviously not an in-the-line-of-duty death, but we will make sure to take care of his family,” Gootkin said.

Jason Bacaj may be reached at jasonb@dailychronicle.com or 582-2635.

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