Family makes 4-hour swim to shore after boat capsizes in Willard Bay

Published: Saturday, Sept. 1 2012 5:51 p.m. MDT

WILLARD BAY — Good preparation and a little luck kept six people alive Friday night when their boat sank and left them floating in Willard Bay for several hours.

"It was a very happy ending, thanks to them being prepared with their safety equipment, their life jackets and the response of search and rescue," said ranger James Morgan, manager of Willard Bay.

The Davis County family, whose names were not released, was boating in the bay Friday afternoon. The father, 52, his wife, 46, their three children ages 11, 13 and 18, as well as an 18-year-old family friend were all on the boat in addition to a small dog.

Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., a storm rolled in. Waves washed over the front of their boat and eventually the entire vessel sank. Fortunately, everyone had life jackets on, Morgan said. They also used fenders, wakeboards and kneeboards as flotation devices.

The youngest child had difficulty swimming and the adults decided to stay with the 11-year-old while sending the other three teens to swim for help, Morgan said.

The teens estimated that after roughly four hours, they reached shore and made their way to I-15 where they flagged down a Utah Highway Patrol trooper. Search and rescue workers were quickly called in, as well as Willard police, the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office, UHP and a LifeFlight helicopter. A sheriff's dive team was also called in, Morgan said.

The adults and 11-year-old child eventually made it to shore on their own and were found by search and rescue members within minutes. The dog also made it to shore with them, Morgan said.

All six were treated for hypothermia at a local hospital and were in stable condition.

Morgan emphasized that their safety was the result of good preparation and the availability of flotation devices.

"That's exactly why we stress for people to have those life-saving devices and all the other equipment because that is really what saved them in this situation," Morgan said.

He also suggested having devices that can make loud noises, like whistles, and using reflective life jackets to make it easier for search and rescue crews at night.

The family's boat was still under water Saturday afternoon.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com, dnewlin@desnews.com Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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