Two more children are hospitalized in Billings, one in critical condition, following the ordeal.
According to Blackburn, the Harders had been kayaking in a protected cove on the east side of the lake between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Monday. All were properly equipped with flotation devices. They had just ventured out into open water when the storm struck and scattered the kayaks.
Blackburn said John Harder managed to swim against the wind and waves to take two of the children to shore, and, because returning to the water was impossible, he sought help at the nearby Bentonite Performance Minerals plant. Most of the employees at the plant left work to help and the sheriff’s department received the 911 call at 7:52 p.m.
Within 20 minutes, North Big Horn County Search and Rescue had boats attempting to cross the lake, but Blackburn said the waves were too much for light boats, so a call went out for heavier boats. Several boat owners responded along with the National Park Service maintenance crew and Blackburn said his office was not ready to release the children’s names on Tuesday afternoon.
Many people assisted in the rescue effort, and Blackburn called it a "real community effort."
Blackburn said the Harders “had done nothing wrong,” and were the victims of circumstance.
“They made reasonable decisions, but old Mother Nature wasn’t very kind,” Blackburn said.
A more detailed story will appear in the Thursday edition of the Powell Tribune.