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August 30, 2011 2:41 pm

Two children drown in Big Horn Lake

Written by Don Amend

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.

10 comments

  • Comment Link August 30, 2011 5:27 pm posted by Robert Weber

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

  • Comment Link August 30, 2011 7:01 pm posted by Aunt Dianne

    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!

  • Comment Link August 30, 2011 7:20 pm posted by Karen Morgan

    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)

  • Comment Link August 30, 2011 7:56 pm posted by Deb Brian Fischer

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

  • Comment Link August 30, 2011 8:05 pm posted by Robert Geha

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

  • Comment Link August 30, 2011 8:46 pm posted by Ron and Lorna

    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.

  • Comment Link September 01, 2011 8:46 am posted by Amanda Watson

    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

  • Comment Link September 01, 2011 10:22 am posted by Emily Groskop

    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

  • Comment Link September 02, 2011 5:27 am posted by Ben

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

    - Massachusetts.

  • Comment Link March 19, 2012 2:19 pm posted by Robert Adams

    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

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