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Wasatch County Sheriff's Office

Search continues for missing boaters on Strawberry Reservoir

By Pat Reavy | Updated - Jul. 19, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. | Posted - Jul. 19, 2019 at 10:45 a.m.

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STRAWBERRY RESERVOIR — The search resumed Friday for two brothers last seen on Strawberry Reservoir.

Thursday afternoon, the empty boat of James "Jim" Gardiner and Mark Gardiner was found. Jim Gardiner, 70, lives in Salem, and Mark, 61, lives in Pleasant Grove. Search and rescue crews worked through the night, the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office said, and the search continued through Friday evening.

"We’re making some progress," Sheriff Jared Rigby said. Searchers had found some "targets," Rigby said, and the team was in the process of verifying those targets. "Lots of times we end up finding that no, that’s not exactly what we were looking for, but a lot of times it’s promising, so we’re encouraged by that."

Rigby said one theory being investigated is that the men had caught a fish and fell into the water while trying to retrieve it. When their boat was found, there was a fish still on the line of one of their poles and a net that was supposed to be in the boat was missing, Rigby said. It was not immediately known whether the men's lifejackets were also missing.

State park rangers and sheriff's deputies were called about 2:30 p.m. Thursday after a passerby spotted the empty boat. When officials were unable to find the boat's owner, the Wasatch County Search and Rescue team was called in.

The boat's motor was still running and it appeared to have drifted to shore on its own. Rigby said a hat was found in the water near the area that was being searched and another near the shore.

The Gardiner brothers go to Strawberry frequently to fish, according to the sheriff, and always follow the same route. They told family members where they were going and what time they were expected to be back. Despite doing those things right, search crews fear there was some type of accident.

Rigby said Friday it seems unlikely they reached the shore and walked away. He noted, however, that the men are in good shape, particularly for their ages, and know how to swim.

The water temperature was 66 degrees on Thursday night, Rigby said.

The Gardiner family had been at the reservoir since Thursday night and went out on the water with the searchers on Friday.

"They’re seeing the work we’re doing, and it’s helping them cope and work through," Rigby said.

Dive crews from several sheriff's offices and the Utah Department of Public Safety were all assisting in the search Friday. Rigby said each team was given a quadrant of the lake to search.

As of Friday evening the northeast side of Strawberry Reservoir was closed off for the search, but the rest of the reservoir remained open.

Contributing: Gretel Kauffman, KSL and Sean Moody, KSL TV


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