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Two dead after boat capsizes in Great Salt Lake

Published November 17, 2012 10:22 pm

Rescue • The harbor master saves man who swam for help.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Saltair • Two duck hunters appear to have died Saturday after their boat capsized on the Great Salt Lake.

Unified Police Department Lt. Justin Hoyal confirmed two men were spotted floating in the water about 11 p.m.

"Helicopter crews have located what appears to be two bodies in the water," Hoyal said. "We've got boat crews going out to that location to determine if these are in fact the two missing individuals and what their conditions might be."

The Great Salt Lake Marina harbor master rescued a third man from the water near Saltair. The trio of duck hunters went into the water after their boat capsized about 4 p.m. Saturday.

The three men, all about age 24 and from the Salt Lake Valley, launched a flat-bottom boat about 1 p.m. to hunt ducks, said Unified Police Department Lt. Justin Hoyal.

About three hours later, Hoyal said, they turned to return to the marina, but inclement weather arrived and water began swamping the boat. The vessel capsized.

Hoyal, relaying the story from the rescued hunter and the harbor master, said the men treaded water for about 15 minutes until one man decided to swim to shore. About the same time, the harbor master spotted the capsized boat and took a boat belonging to Utah State Parks to rescue them.

The harbor master reached only the swimmer. Hoyal said at least one personal flotation device was in the boat, but he didn't know if anyone was wearing it.

A helicopter with a searchlight flew above the water, even as rain and cold wind blew across the banks. Searchers on all-terrain vehicles were looking along the shore.

About 9:45 p.m., Hoyal reported the boat had been located in 8 feet of water, but there were no signs of the missing men.

About 10:30 p.m., rescue crews returned to a command post to wait for inclement weather to pass, look at maps and determine where to resume the search, Hoyal said. Then the bodies were discovered.

The rescued man was treated and released and remained at the marina through the search Saturday. A group believed to be family of the hunters also had gathered at the marina.

Saturday's trio aren't the first duck hunters to encounter choppy waters on the Great Salt Lake. On Dec. 30, four duck hunters went into shallow water when their boat capsized. They were able to walk to shore when emergency responders shined lights to guide them.

jdobner@sltrib.com