This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Songs and prayers cut through howling winds and crashing waves as seven people struggled to survive in the chilly waters of Bear Lake, miles from the shore after their boat capsized amid a storm Monday night.
"They said the waves and wind were so loud they literally yelled their prayers so the other could hear their words," recounted Jeff L. Stoker, whose 14-year-old daughter Tiffany was one of three survivors from the wreck that left four dead.
Lance Capener, 46; his daughters Kelsey, 13, and Kilee, 7; and their friend, 13-year-old Siera Hadley, died after languishing for hours in the 53-degree water after more than 70 mph winds tossed the Capeners' boat and turned the lake into a frothing nightmare of 10-foot high surges that broke the group apart.
"Those waves came over the boat, filled it up and then capsized it," Siera Hadley's uncle, Brett Hadley of North Ogden, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday. "Everyone had life jackets on, but that didn't help [due to the cold water]. No one had wet suits; no one intended on getting into the water."
Tiffany Stoker and Tylinn Tilley, both 14, and Kathryn Capener, wife of Lance and mother to Kelsey and Kilee, were rescued.
After the boat capsized, Lance and Kathryn "immediately checked on all of the girls and got everyone gathered together in the water," Kathryn Capener, 42, wrote in a statement Wednesday night. All seven were wearing life jackets.
The girls sang Mormon children's songs and prayed together "to bring comfort and help," Capener wrote. "As time went on with the waves continuing to crash over everyone, we became separated from some of the girls."
The four teenagers remained together near the boat, but the waves slammed the boat into their bodies as they tried to swim, Jeff Stoker wrote on his Facebook page. Tiffany Stoker and Tylinn Tilley decided to try to swim to shore while Kelsey Capener and Siera Hadley stayed with the boat.
"They tried swimming toward shore for three hours," Jeff Stoker wrote. "If one got a cramp in a leg or arm the other would try to massage it and help it."
The girls saw lightning approaching and prayed it wouldn't strike them. It didn't. As the winds calmed, they watched the sun set as they bobbed in the water and waited for darkness to set in.
"They both were about to give up hope and they were so, so tired, and that is when they heard the boat and started screaming," Jeff Stoker wrote.
They were taken to Logan Regional Hospital, where they were treated for hypothermia and later released.
Meanwhile, Kathryn, Lance and Kilee found themselves in a separate group on the lake.
"Several hours passed while Lance and I battled the waves together with our youngest child, Kilee," Kathryn Capener wrote. "We were waiting for the rescuers that we knew our friends on the shore would have sent, and calling out for the other girls."
Kathryn Capener was the only member of her family to be rescued from the lake. She later was reunited with her son, who was recovering from oral surgery and didn't join the family boat trip. She remained in fair condition at a hospital on Wednesday.
While the incident remained under investigation, the Rich County Sheriff's Office speculated that it was indeed exposure in the 50-some-degree waters, chilled by mountain runoff, that resulted in deadly hypothermia as the victims endured their hours in the roiling lake.
While expressing his thankfulness for those who survived, Stoker said he and his family mourned for those who did not.
"We are ... so full of grief for our friends' losses," he said.
Authorities had 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. The boat and the victims were spotted about 6 miles north of the marina, on the Idaho side of the border.
Rich County Sheriff Dale Stacey has said that some of the victims were in the water for up to five hours before being found.
The Hadley family and friends have set up a Go Fund Me account to help with funeral and medical expenses.