Bear Lake fatal boat accident is ‘single worst tragedy’ he’s seen on lake, Rich County sheriff says

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

BEAR LAKE, Utah -- Four people were killed and three others hospitalized after a boat capsized in wind-whipped waves, plunging them into cold waters.

The victims were identified by an LDS bishop and family members as Dr. Lance Capener, his daughters Kilee and Kelsey Capener and a family friend, 14-year-old Siera Hadley.

Kathryn Capener, Lance's wife and the mother of Kilee and Kelsey, survived the incident and is still in the hospital. Two other family friends who were on the boat, 14-year-old Tiffany Stoker and 14-year-old Tylinn Tilley, survived and were reported to have been released from the hospital.

"This is the single worst tragedy that I have seen on this lake," Rich County Sheriff Dale Stacey told FOX 13.

The group had been out enjoying a day on Bear Lake, about six miles northeast of the marina on the Idaho side of the border, when the weather turned and powerful winds churned up six to 10 foot waves, Stacey said.

The boat, designed to be lower in the water for skiing and wakeboarding, flipped over. Stacey told FOX 13 everyone on board was wearing a life jacket, but the water temperature was 53-degrees.

"Some of them were in the water for five hours," the sheriff said.

When Utah State Parks rangers got word of some people overdue, they launched a search. It took hours to find them because of weather and the search area.

Richard Droesbeke, the park manager for Bear Lake State Park, said the victims were all found clumped in groups in the victinity of the capsized boat. Two of the girls appeared to have tried to swim to shore, he said.

"We found the two the two that were closest to shore, to where we found the boat adrift was probably about a mile, mile and a quarter distance," Droesbeke told FOX 13.

On shore, Sheriff Stacey said he helped perform CPR on the victims as they were brought back. Medical helicopters had been dispatched to fly them to Salt Lake City-area hospitals.

"It's hard when it's kids," the sheriff said.

Family friends have set up a Go Fund Me account to help with funeral and medical expenses for Siera K. Hadley.


  • Matt

    This is a very sad event. One would think that common sense would dictate if one should be on the water or not. This event should not have happened.

      • Alfred E. Neuman

        Depending on which ski boat it is the typical maximum is 7 people or 1050 lbs. Where there were 4 children they were well below the capacity of their boat.

      • bob

        From the photos it’s a very tiny boat. They MAY have been over the limit. But that certainly doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have capsized with fewer people.

        When I was 14 we were on a rented houseboat on Lake Powell when a thunderstorm brewed. We were way out in the main channel near Bullfrog. Waves were crashing over the bow and washing into the cabin. My dad attempted to turn around and head for the marina, and the instant we got sideways to the waves we nearly turned over. All he could do was turn back into the wind and stay that way, getting further from the marina all the time.

        It can get VERY ugly very quickly. Unless you plan to hire a professional captain to drive your boat for you this sort of thing is going to happen. Fortunately, it’s extremely rare.

    • Heidi Jensen

      I grew up in Bear Lake and the weather can turn from calm to insane within minutes…ESPECIALLY..on the water. Unfortunately the lake has taken many lives for that very reason. Please don’t be judgmental of this horrific tragedy. The family needs prayers not criticism.

    • Hunter

      Matt the weather can not be controlled, it takes a blink of an eye for weather to change, have you never witness this before? Speed boats have a weight capacity, I highly doubt these females exceeded it and with the wave forming in a split second there wasn’t anything anyone could of done to prevent it. All the victims did everything right, they had life jackets on. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, unless the Dr. Capener was able to see into the future he is not at fault.

    • Chantell

      Wow this is a horrible tragedy nobody is at fault for this. It hurts to see how people are so Inconsiderate of the family’s feelings. Why do we need to point fingers? Nobody wanted this it was an accident out of there control. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

    • Ted burningham

      Way to support these people in their lowest hour. I only wish I were as smart and had your “common sense” Matt.

  • jenn

    We were up there. This storm came out of nowhere. They would not have been able to get of the water in time. The wind came up and caused HUGE waves in literally seconds. Don’t make judgments. My heart goes out to the families involved.

  • A Friend

    My heart hurts at the judgmental and unfeeling comments that I have read. A family has been torn apart, as well as a community. Now is not the time to point fingers. Now is the time to reach out to those that have been hurt by this great tragedy. Dr. Capner was an amazing man who cared deeply about his patients and community. Also, just so you know the wind speed on the lake got all the way up to 75 mph. and the waves reached as high as six feet. This storm came out of nowhere, and could not have been predicted. Rather than finger pointing, let’s send love and prayers to the families that have been affected by this tragedy and hope for peace and healing.

    • Lou

      AMEN, Friend! It’s difficult to believe that there are those trying to place blame on the victims, rather than feeling compassion for their families! I’m sorry for the loss, those of you who knew him. I had heard that he was a remarkable man, doctor, father! If I were his wife, I wouldn’t have wanted to survive! She’s the one who needs our prayers the most, imho!

  • Evelyn

    Dr Capner was my family doctor. Knowing how careful he was with my family’s health, I know he was more cautious with his own family.
    In addition, I live in Ogden and had walked across the street with my son that night. We were not gone long, but even in Ogden that storm came in fast. I was not sure we would get back home before the storm hit. It moved very fast and there was no sign of it before. It would have been the same on Bear Lake.
    Dr. Capner will be missed.

  • Ginger

    I didn”t know them that well, but they went to my school and I talked to them sometimes. The family and friends will be in my prayers.

  • David Whittington

    I have spent much time on Bear Lake. The weather can go from calm to life threatening wind and waves in just minutes – not enough time to get to safety. But Bear Lake is also ALWAYS very cold. The wind and cold water would quickly make swimming to shore almost impossible once the boat tipped over. All this was just an incredibly unfortunate accident. In this time of mourning, no one should be ‘blamed’ for this accident.

  • bob

    Not their fault. The boat was not “overloaded.” They wore life jackets. They did everything right. You just don’t expect that you can have waves that big on a mountain lake until you actually experience it.

    But the usual cast of characters, who never leave the safety of their living room, always manages to keep us informed of their own superiority.

    If you venture outdoors there is always the chance that Mother Nature is going to squash you like a bug. That doesn’t mean you hide. You do the best you can and then live your life.

Comments are closed.