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Lance Capener likely was trying to rescue his daughters and their young friend when all four succumbed to the wind-whipped, icy-cold waters of Bear Lake after their boat capsized Monday night.
"He would not come back without his children," the man's mother, Pauline Capener of Ogden, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday. "I feel that's why he died, trying to save the others."
Lance Capener, 46; his daughters Kelsey, 13, and Kilee, 7; and their friend, 13-year-old Siera K. Hadley, all died after their boat capsized during a water-skiing outing with family and friends Monday.
Winds on the lake Monday night had gusted to 76 mph, churning up waves that reached 10 feet in height on the 112-square-mile lake that straddles the Utah-Idaho border.
Mike Wahlberg, fire chief in nearby Garden City, Utah, said conditions were some of the worst he's seen and "about as extreme as it gets."
Seven people were on board when the boat overturned. They were in the water for at least two hours as rescuers tried to find them, said Wahlberg, who helped with the rescue efforts.
All were wearing life jackets, though prolonged exposure to Bear Lake's cold waters subjected them to varying levels of hypothermia, the Rich County sheriff's office reported.
The water was about 53 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday night.
"If you're in that water, you could be dead within an hour, half an hour even," Wahlberg said. "It's a bad deal for you, and it can be hard to survive."
Pauline Capener said she learned her son, an Ogden physician, swam with his wife to the shore before returning to the water, where the three girls remained. Capener's wife, Kathryn Stockdale Capener, 42, remained at Logan Regional Hospital on Tuesday in fair condition.
Two other girls Tiffany Stoker and Tylinn Tilley, both 14 were also taken to the Logan hospital by ambulance. They were released after being treated for hypothermia, according hospital spokesman Sterling Morris.
"We are heartbroken over the loss of our beloved Lance Capener, a local physician, our bubbly and loving Kelsey, and our sweet angelic Kilee," the Capener and Stockdale families wrote in a statement. "We are also heartbroken about the loss of one of the family's dear friends [Siera Hadley] and our love goes out to that family."
The family wrote that windstorms and waves capsized the boat, but said they had no other details about what happened for certain on the lake.
"Lance is a marathoner," Pauline Capener said. "He was very strong and a good swimmer. But that's a very bad lake; it can come up with squalls."
Lance Capener had owned the boat for about two years, his mother said. She said the family had few details about Monday's accident, but said she knew her daughter-in-law had told authorities that Lance Capener had brought her to shore.
"We really don't know all of it," Pauline Capener said. "Maybe after a while when Kathy is able to talk to us and get past the worst of it, we will know more."
Authorities launched a multi-agency search Monday evening after the Capener group failed to return to the marina at Bear Lake State Park as expected at 5 p.m. Monday.
"There was a very violent windstorm in the Bear Lake area," said Rich County Sheriff Dale Stacey.
Using helicopters and boats, rescuers recovered all seven victims from the spring-runoff-chilled water by 11 p.m. The search effort had focused on an area between the marina and the lake's North Beach, which is on the Idaho side of the lake. The boat and the victims were spotted about 6 miles north of the marina.
A teenage son of Lance and Kathryn Capener had not gone with the family to the lake on Monday because he was recovering from having his wisdom teeth removed, Pauline Capener said.
Capener described both her granddaughters as "very bright" and "very sweet," and said her son was a kind, loving man who was "a good father and a good church member."
"We were very proud of him," she said.
Their friend, Sierra Hadley, was "happy all the time and someone who always brought light into the room," said her uncle, Brett Hadley. Hadley was a classmate of Kelsey Capener at Orion Junior High in Harrison. Her uncle said she was a straight-A student who loved soccer and was working hard to earn her Young Womanhood Recognition medallion through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"She had a big personality," Brett Hadley said.
Lance Capener was a doctor at Intermountain Healthcare's South Ogden Clinic, where he had been employed since August 2009, said IHC spokesman Chris Dallin in a written statement.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to all of those involved for the loss of those in the recent tragic incident," Dallin said.
In an interview with KUTV, Stacey characterized the accident as "the single worst tragedy that I have seen on this lake."
The families of the victims thanked the public safety teams who helped in the search.
"We are grateful to the rescuers, the first responders, the transport teams, and the medical staffs that have been involved with helping all efforts during this ordeal," the statement reads. "These men and women have shown tremendous skill and compassion. We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support that has been shown by ward members, friends, neighbors and co-workers."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Twitter: @jenniferdobner @remims