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Two children drown in Big Horn Lake

A sudden wind storm brought a tragic end to a family outing on Big Horn Lake Monday evening.

Two children are dead as a result of extremely high waves that struck as John and Janice Harder and their six children, ranging from 3 to 11 years old, were kayaking about a mile north of the Kane boat ramp, according to Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn.

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.

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10 comments

  • posted by Robert Adams

    March 19, 2012 3:19 pm

    The Heavenly Father is everything or He is nothing. There are no accidents, nor co-incidence. It is not for the family of man to understand this divine plan.
    But for glimpse or by faith we know with bittersweet certainty these children were called home. And, to that we say Amen.

    Bob Adams
    Grandson of Sol Sena

  • posted by Ben

    September 02, 2011 6:27 am

    Through the Rosary, our family seeks Divine consolation for your family.

    - Massachusetts.

  • posted by Emily Groskop

    September 01, 2011 11:22 am

    You treated us so special, Coach John! So many memories. Thank you. Sending love and prayers to you and your family. God Bless.
    Emily (Beyeler) Groskop

  • posted by Amanda Watson

    September 01, 2011 9:46 am

    Thank you for always treating us like we were your own kids, John. We know you are the best father in the world to your kids, and I am so heartbroken by this news.
    -Amanda and Kyle Watson

  • posted by Ron and Lorna

    August 30, 2011 9:46 pm

    Our love and prayers are with you. We are so sad for your great loss of these precious little ones. Love, Uncle Ron and Aunt Lorna and families.

  • posted by Robert Geha

    August 30, 2011 9:05 pm

    It pains me to have to report these type of stories. it's the worst part of my job.
    Robert Geha
    NewsChannel 5 Cheyenne

  • posted by Deb Brian Fischer

    August 30, 2011 8:56 pm

    Our sympathy goes out to Janice & John Harder & the family. God's blessing to you and may He comfort you daily.

  • posted by Karen Morgan

    August 30, 2011 8:20 pm

    John and Janice,
    My love, thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. I am so very sorry for your loss. It is a loss to all of us. You are a wonderful family. May Gods love give you strength at this very very sad time.
    Love and prayers,
    Karen Morgan( Kristi's sister)

  • posted by Aunt Dianne

    August 30, 2011 8:01 pm

    Two special guys were not able to make it. Janice's and John's extended families are so sad. The only bright side is that they now have two special angels watching over them!!

    We love you all!

  • posted by Robert Weber

    August 30, 2011 6:27 pm

    We are so saddened by this tragic news, our thoughts and prayers go out for this precious family.

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