He had been missing since Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday morning the 54-year-old filmed scenes from the novela Velho Chico, ate lunch, and then around 1pm, went swimming in the Xingo canyon of the São Francisco River in Northeastern Brazil in the state of Sergipe. He never returned, and his novela co-star, Camila Pitanga, alerted the producers, who called for a search of the river, Forbes reported.
The announcement of his death was made live-on air on Globo, the same channel where his novela airs each night.
The news of his death has caused commotion in Brazil, where fellow actors have paid tributes to the actor. His latest film, Um Namorado Para Minha Mulher (A Boyfriend For My Wife), was released two weeks ago.
The 54-year-old had gone for a swim with an actress after a day of shooting in the north-eastern state of Sergipe.
She said he was dragged away by the river’s strong currents.
The actress, Camila Pitanga, cried for help but local people failed to act initially as they believed the drowning was a scene in the soap opera.
The authorities said there was little that anyone could have done.
“They thought they had chosen a safe spot to swim, but that is one of the most dangerous areas in the town of Caninde and usually avoided by locals,” police chief Antonio Francisco Filho told O Globo.
A few hours after the incident, rescue teams found Montagner’s body underwater, some 300 metres (984ft) from where he drowned.
Montagner was born in Sao Paulo and had a career in the circus before becoming a television actor.