Many questions unanswered following tragedy at Bear Lake

BEAR LAKE STATE PARK, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) –  While authorities continue trying to figure out how a boat capsized, claiming four lives, so many questions remain.

“How long were the victims in the water?”

“Is there anything they could have done to stay warm?”

“What ultimately caused thier deaths?”

Those are just some of the many elements surrounding the Rich County Sheriff’s Office’s ongoing investigation.  While officials do not have all the answers, they say they are certain thunderstorms that tore through area did play a role in the tragedy.

Good 4 Utah meteorologists tracked the storm system from start to finish. 

“These storms developed very fast — they moved very quickly but also produced some very strong, powerful, damaging winds,” explained meteorologist Curtis Ray.

Those winds reached up to 76 miles per hour.  Ray says while those gusts were forecasted, they can sometimes catch people off-guard, especially unassuming boaters out on a lake.

“Waves will develop very, very quickly. They can be erratic too, like the winds of thunderstorms — coming from one direction then another direction…” he explained. 

That is why authorities suspect two adults and five children became stranded Monday night, and while some of the victims have tragically passed away, a woman and two children are still fighting for their lives.  

Specialists at Intermountain Riverton Hospital say if the three living victims do survive, they could very well struggle through serious injuries and conditions for the rest of their lives. 

“Certainly, brain damage, but when temperatures drop, the heart can have effects — electrical problems,” said Doctor David Hasleton, Medical Director for Riverton Hospital. 

Haselton says hypothermia can set in within minutes after falling into icy water like Bear Lake’s.

“The thermostat of the body goes down, so in cold water such as these people were in, the temperature drops rapidly,” he explained. 

Even when people survive frigid temperatures initially, Hasleton says they are not always necessarily going to recover. 

“Often times, they’re rescued initially but can pass away later. Because the organs do not have enough blood flow during that hypothermic time, they can start shutting down…” he said. 

For now, all anyone can do is hope, pray, wait, and above all, use the tragic incident as a reminder to always keep your eye to the sky. 

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