Police & Fire

Three rescued from sinking boat on the Jordanelle Reservoir

"If you see the weather on our mountains to the west starting to roll in, that means it's time to get your boat off the water. Because, if you wait until the weather's bad, then you're already in trouble." Kam Kohler, Wastach SAR

WASATCH COUNTY, Utah — On June 17 at 5:03 p.m., emergency services were alerted to a boat sinking at Jordanelle Reservoir. A sudden storm brought high winds, causing the vessel to take on water. Wasatch Search and Rescue Commander Kam Kohler said that the crux of the storm lasted all but 30 minutes, with winds gusting to about 50 mph and causing waves to hit about 5 feet.

An eyewitness account of the situation shared that the driver of the boat had his boat out of the water when he noticed three paddle boarders who had fallen off their boards and were in distress. He then relaunched the boat, and after bringing those three to shore, he noticed two more people were stranded and in need of assistance. In the process of trying to bring that group back to shore, the waves overtook his boat and began to sink it.

Fortunately, all managed to swim to shore with the assistance of a nearby bystander. Wasatch County Search and Rescue (WSAR) teams were dispatched immediately but arrived after the trio had safely reached land.

Kohler stated, “You could hardly stand on the [boat] ramp. That’s how bad the wind was. People standing on the ramp were getting blown right over.” He also mentioned that while 5 foot waves may not seem like much, “You only need a couple of waves over your boat and you’re in trouble.”

The incident lasted approximately an hour and a half, with the quick response of the bystander being crucial to the safety of those involved. As for the boat, it did not fully sink, and a recovery mission will be in place to remove it from the lake.

Kohler spoke to the protocols to prevent situations like this on the reservoirs in the mountains in a PSA:

“If you see the weather on our mountains to the west starting to roll in, that means it’s time to get your boat off the water. Because, if you wait until the weather’s bad, then you’re already in trouble,” Kohler said. And they come fast. If you’re looking at the weather up on the west side, above Park City, and here at Jordanelle, same thing with Strawberry, and there are clouds starting to gather, and it’s getting dark … in about 30 minutes, it’s going to be on top of you. So take that time to go get everybody safe and your boat off the water.”

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