After spending all of Thursday night fishing, 36-year-old Christopher Winslow and his 13-year-old son hung to the outside of their capsized boat in the cold waters of central Utah’s Fish Lake, with hours still to go until sunrise.
At about 5:15 a.m. on Friday morning, their boat had flipped over, a couple of hours after they had dropped off a friend at the Fishlake Lodge Marina. Winslow tried to call 911, but the call’s connection dropped, and dispatchers attempts to call back also failed.
Then, at 7:30 a.m. — still before sunrise — a fisherman heard Winslow yelling, still holding on to the boat, still 1,000 feet from the shore. The fisherman helped Winslow to shore, and EMTs began treating him for the exposure to the cold water. Winslow said that, at some point, his son had let go of the boat. The father had tried to swim deep into the lake to save him, but couldn’t.
Still, search crews looked for the boy, beginning at about 8 a.m. Friday morning. The surface of Fish Lake was littered with debris from the boat, and waters around the debris spot were over 100 feet deep, so the Utah Department of Public Services dive team, the Utah Fire Marshall, Utah state park rangers and the Wasatch County Sheriff’s office were called in for assistance.
In the end, it was a tip from a family member that ended up helping the most. The pair had the Life360 app installed on their phones, which put the boy’s last whereabouts further away from the debris and boat than anticipated. When the family member looked at the app and sent the screenshot to police, they changed the search area to a more accurate part of the lake. On Saturday, at 8:30 p.m., the boy’s body was found, 106 feet below the surface.
“If it had not been for the family and the app information they provided, we would not found him as quickly as we did,” Sevier County Sheriff Nate Curtis said.
Winslow, who lives in Cedar City, was hospitalized for exposure and hypothermia, according to Curtis.