A late Monday afternoon outing on Bear Lake for the Capener family and two family friends turned deadly when their ski boat capsized, dumping all on board into the chilly lake water. Dr. Lance Capener, 46, was on the boat with his wife Kathryn, 42, and daughters Kelsey, 13, and Kilee, 7. Also on the boat were family friends Siera Hadley, 13, Tiffany Stoker and Tylinn Tilley, both 14. Kathryn, Tiffany and Tylinn survived the ordeal, but the other four perished in the water.
A late afternoon wind storm roared into the Bear Lake area unexpectedly, with wind gusts up to 76 mph, causing wave swells up to 10 feet in height. All of the boaters were wearing life jackets when the boat capsized, but it is believed that those who died were in the water for at least two hours, and perhaps as long as five hours, before rescuers located them. Dr. Capener was able to swim to shore with his wife, but he then returned to the water to help the girls to safety. It is believed that the two Capener girls decided to stay with the capsized boat, while Tiffany and Tylinn decided to swim to shore. The two offered each other encouragement and moral support during their long swim to safety.
First responders and rescuers have concluded that hypothermia likely caused the four deaths. When the boat capsized, the water was approximately 53 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, someone in the water can be dead in less than an hour. Local authorities are hoping that this tragedy will serve as a sober reminder that safety is of paramount importance as the summer boating season gets underway. On larger lakes, like 112 square-mile Bear Lake, which straddles the Utah-Idaho border, wind and bad weather can cause conditions to deteriorate very rapidly. As such, the safest thing to do when storms move in is to find land as quickly as possible. Boaters should also be fully equipped with life jackets for all passengers, a throwable flotation device, a fire extinguisher, paddles, and a bailing device. It is also a good idea to have a cell phone or radio communication device handy in a waterproof container, in case rescue assistance is needed. For a safety refresher on boating safety, boaters can click on the education tab at http://stateparks.utah.gov/resources/boating.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.