SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A summery day on a Utah lake turned deadly for a family and friends when high waves and violent winds kicked up and capsized their boat, throwing all seven people into the cold water.
Four died, including three children, as rescuers struggled to find the boaters for at least two hours in continued bad weather. The other three eventually were pulled from the choppy waters and hospitalized.
It happened Monday at Bear Lake, which spans more than 112 square miles in Utah and Idaho.
Utah doctor Lance Capener, 46, took the ski boat out with his wife, Kathy, 42, their two daughters and three of the girls’ friends, authorities said. It was 80 degrees.
The group was reported missing at about 6 p.m., around the same time temperatures dropped and the National Weather Service tracked wind gusts of up to 51 mph in nearby Garden City. The windstorm that rolled in over nearby mountains produced giant waves that also ripped to pieces a floating plastic dock at a nearby Boy Scout camp.
All seven people on the boat wore lifejackets, but the water was 53 degrees Fahrenheit, posing a serious hypothermia risk, authorities said.
The boaters were in the water for at least two hours amid waves that reached 10 feet and frothed in the wind as rescuers searched for them, said Mike Wahlberg, Garden City fire chief. He called the conditions some of the worst he’s seen and “about as extreme as it gets.”
Rescuers reached the group and pulled them from the water, but Lance Capener died at the lake, said Utah State Parks Lt. Eric Stucki.
His daughters Kelsey Capener, 13, and Kilee Capener, 7, and their friend Sierra Hadley, 13, were flown to a Salt Lake City hospital but died early Tuesday.
Surviving members of the Capener family remembered the sisters as sweet and bubbly in a statement Tuesday.
Kathy Capener was hospitalized in the northern Utah city of Logan, along with family friends Tiffany Stoker and Tylinn Tilley, both 14 years old. The teens were released from the hospital Tuesday, Stucki said.
A few other boats were on the water at the time, but no other injuries or accidents were reported, Stucki said.
Bear Lake is about 120 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Another boating accident was reported three hours south, at Utah Lake. Rescuers pulled two people from the water Monday night after high winds overturned their sailboat.
The two adults involved were uninjured and wearing life vests, Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.