Best friends in life, hunters died together on the Great Salt Lake

Published November 19, 2012 7:44 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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 • Logan Hardman and Chad Tohinaka were best friends who did everything together in life.

Saturday night, they died together.

The two friends — Hardman, 25, of West Jordan and Tohinaka, 25, of Sandy — died during a boating accident on the Great Salt Lake.

"It was a wonderful friendship and, you know, it was nice that they were not alone at the end," Tohinaka's mother, Karen Tohinaka, told The Salt Lake Tribune Sunday night. "I'm sure they were trying their best. I'm sure they held on to each other as long as they could."

The two men, along with a 24-year-old friend, were heading back to shore from a duck hunting trip about 4 p.m. when the weather suddenly changed, Unified Police said Saturday. Within seconds, waves flooded their boat, causing it to capsize and plunge all three men into the frigid, 47-degree water,Lt. Justin Hoyal said.

The 24-year-old, whose name has not been released, swam about a half-mile to shore for help.Hardman and Chad Tohinaka stayed with the boat — a vessel the three men had recently purchased together, according to Karen Tohinaka.

"It was the first time they used it," she said. "I didn't even know they were going hunting."

Hardman and Chad Tohinaka forged a friendship while they were still in diapers, Karen Tohinaka said. Hardman's mother tended the boys at her home in Kearns, where Karen worked as a school teacher. Hardman's older brothers were her students. The families were close and the boys even closer, although they never lived in the same city, or attended the same schools.

As a teen, when Chad Tohinaka dyed his dark hair blond, Hardman dyed his light hair black. When Chad's younger sister, Kelsi, started dating, Hardman served as a protective big brother. And when Hardman married, Chad Tohinaka stood with him at the altar as his best man.

"Chad was always a part of their family and Logan was always a part of ours," Karen Tohinaka said. "It breaks my heart that it's like I've lost two sons and [Hardman's mother] lost two as well."

Rescue teams located the trio's capsized boat about 9 p.m. Saturday, about three hours after the 24-year-old swam to shore to get help. By 11 p.m. a helicopter spotted Hardman and Chad Tohinaka's bodies about six miles east of the marina, and rescuers later brought them to shore.

On Sunday, crews returned to the scene of the accident in an effort to retrieve the capsized vessel, which was found about six miles due north of the marina and just south of Antelope Island.

Police have said they don't know why Hardman and Tohinaka didn't attempt to swim to shore. But Karen Tohinaka said neither her son or Hardman were good swimmers, so they may have been hesitant to try.

All three men were experienced hunters, however, Hardman's brother Matt Hardman, told the Tribune Sunday.

"It's something they did all the time and loved," Matt Hardman said.

A devoted family man, Logan Hardman leaves behind a wife and two young children, 3 and 1.

"He was a very passionate person," Matt Hardman said. "He loved the outdoors. He loved his family. He would help anybody in need."

Chad Tohinaka was equally devoted to his family, spending every Sunday at his parent's Salt Lake City home for dinner. He was equally focused on his career as an investment portfolio manager, dreaming of a job in a big New York City brokerage firm and earning his first million dollars by age 27, his mother said. The family had a running joke about what he could buy them once he became rich — a car for Kesli, a maid for mom and dad.

"He was smart and knew what he wanted. He was working his way up," Karen Tohinaka said. "He would have been something."

No cause of death has been given for either man. Autopsies are being conducted by the state medical examiner's office.

The surviving hunter was treated for minor injuries at the Great Salt Lake Marina and released. He declined a request for an interview late Saturday as he waited for news of his friends at the marina alongside the missing mens' families.

After swimming to shore, the surivor was foundwalking on a frontage road near 8000 West when Great Salt Lake Marina State Park harbor master Dave Shearer picked him up in a truck.

"He was cold but with it [mentally]," Shearer said. "He said they had capsized and they stayed with the boat for 15 minutes before he told them he was going to swim in for help and the other two were going to stay with the boat. As soon as he told me the boat had capsized, we went back out to look for them."

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

Shearer said he had been watching the hunters' boat make its way back toward the marina.

"It looked like he was making good headway and then he just stopped," Shearer said. "As soon as I lost visual we went to try to find them."

The Great Salt Lake seems like a tame place, but the salt content of the water presents unique dangers.

"The lake is 1,500 square miles. We can get waves of 8 to 10 feet out here," Shearer said. "The water is extremely dense. A 4-foot wave here will hit with an incredible amount of energy compared to the ocean. The fact you can float effortlessly is a benefit, but it is also a detriment. It can get much more rough than almost any other lake in the world."

Because of the salt content, the water will not turn to ice even if it is below freezing. Shearer said the water temperature was 47 degrees Saturday night.

Shearer said the last boating fatality on the Great Salt Lake happened seven years ago when a barge broke loose and hit a boat. A man in the boat drowned.

Hardman's family has set up a memorial account in Logan Hardman's name to help his surviving wife and children. Donations can be made at any Zions Bank location.

jdobner@sltrib.com

jstecklein@sltrib.com

brettp@sltrib.com

How to help

The family of Logan Hardman has set up an account at Zions Bank in his name for those wishing to make a donation. He leaves behind a wife and two children, ages 3 and 1. —

2012 boating fatalities in Utah

The deaths of Logan Hardman and Chad Tohi­naka bring to seven the number of boating-related fatalities in Utah in 2012, according to Dave Harris, boating coordinator with Utah State Parks and Recreation. Four of the fatalities occurred at Lake Powell (three involving personal water craft), one at Utah Lake, and two on the Great Salt Lake.