Parents of teen who survived tragedy at Bear Lake speak; community rallies to mourn those who died

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NORTH OGDEN, Utah -- Monday afternoon, 7 best friends and 6 mothers headed to Bear Lake for a trip they had all spent months planning. They ate lunch, swam, and then took turns touring the lake on a ski boat. It was a perfect afternoon, until the day ended tragically.

“We don’t know why they had to go through this. We may never know,” said Melanie and Lance Tilley.

Their daughter, 13-year-old Tylinn, was found swimming for help with a friend, Tiffany Stoker, also 13, about 1.5 miles away from shore. They were cold, stiff and struggling to continue when a search and rescue crew heard their screams.

“I told Tylinn, ‘Even if you had to go through this trial, I just wanted to be there holding you and hugging you and helping you through it,’” said Melanie Tilley.

Tylinn and Tiffany were found first by crews. The two had decided to try to swim to shore after waiting by the capsized boat for what felt like hours. The temperature was frigid and the waves powerful, but they managed to press on throughout the evening.

"They clung to each other for three hours in the water and saved each other's lives by talking and encouraging and pushing on,” said the Tilleys. "When one would get tired and worn out, the other would keep them going."

Back at the boat, five others waited. Kathryn and Lance Capener were treading water, and trying to look after their two daughters and their friend. However, by the time rescue crews arrived, only Kathryn Capener could be saved.

Lance Capener, 46, was pronounced dead at the lake. The couple’s two daughters, 13-year old Kelsey and 7-year old Kilee, died overnight. The girls’ friend, 13-year old Siera Hadley, also passed away.

“Every person's worst nightmare is to lose a child,” said the Tilleys. “But to hear what they went through and in the water, cold, dark, alone.”

It’s a loss that could be seen all throughout the community of North Ogden, where the families live. Wednesday, classmates and families tied ribbons all along Washington Street in Pleasant View. Many were the color orange--Siera Hadley’s favorite.

“Life is hard. When you can pull yourself and pull a community together and make the best of it, it's all that you can do,” said family friend Heather Petersen.

A candlelight vigil to honor the victims is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday night at Orion Junior High School in north Ogden.

Kathryn Capener released a statement to FOX 13 News about the experience, which is available in its entirety below:

“On Monday, my husband, Lance, and I were boating with our 7-year old daughter, Kilee, our 13-year-old daughter, Kelsey, and group of Kelsey’s friends. Everyone was having fun, and the water had been good. Some of us went out on the boat for one last run. The wind storm and the waves picked up very suddenly, and despite our best efforts to steer through the waves and get back to shore, the boat capsized.

We immediately checked on all of the girls and got everyone gathered together in the water. The girls sang together and prayed to bring comfort and help. As time went on with the waves continuing to crash over everyone, we became separated from some of the girls.

Several hours passed while Lance and I battled the waves together with our youngest child, Kilee. We were waiting for the rescuers that we knew our friends on the shore would have sent, and calling out for the other girls. The rescue workers gave valiant efforts, and even though it was hours before they found us, they did not give up.

I am thankful to everyone who helped look for us. I am thankful to all of the people who worked so hard to try to save my husband and daughters. I know that everyone involved did everything possible to help us.

I would like to thank the caregivers at Logan Regional Hospital. They have shown me tremendous care and compassion. I continue to recover under their care and anticipate being released soon.

I want to send my love to Siera Hadley’s family. She has been a wonderful friend to my daughter, and she is very special to our whole family.

I am so touched by all of the support and help coming from my friends, ward members and the entire community. I have heard about so many of the expressions of concern and love being sent to my family.

I thank those who have respected my family’s privacy at this difficult time. I understand that many people are concerned about us and would like information; therefore, a family spokesperson, my sister Liesa Stockdale, will be available to handle these requests, while allowing me and my son the privacy we need to heal. Please direct all questions to her.”

– Kathryn Capener

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