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December 29, 2011 9:21 am

2011 Top Stories: High wind on lake claims two lives

Written by Don Amend

Tragedy struck the Harder family of Lovell when high winds and heavy waves struck and scattered them as they kayaked on Big Horn Lake on an August evening.

Two brothers, 8-year-old Johnny and 4-year-old Joseph, died despite a massive rescue effort by Big Horn County Search and Rescue personnel and numerous volunteers.

Two older sisters, Katie, 11, and Anne, 9, managed to get to shore with the help of a visitor to the lake, and their father, John Harder, reached shore on his own and sought help. Two younger girls, Cecilia, 6, and Mary, 3, were found clinging to their mother, Janice, and were pulled from the water after several hours. All three were taken to North Big Horn County Hospital in Lovell, and the two young girls were transferred to Billings, but they were released from the hospital after a few days.

The family had been kayaking together on previous occasions on the lake and all were properly equipped. Big Horn County sheriff Ken Blackburn said the family had taken reasonable precautions, but “Old Mother Nature just wasn’t very kind to them.”

Blackburn also credited the Search and Rescue squad, a number of private boat owners and a National Park Service maintenance crew for their efforts.

“There were some real heroes out there,” he said.

The Lovell fire department provided support during the rescue effort and Powell emergency medical personnel covered for Lovell emergency medical crews while they participated in the rescue effort.

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