Rescue crews suspend search for missing man on Utah Lake


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OREM -- A major search is underway at Utah Lake to find an Orem man who went missing when his boat capsized. Crews have called off the search for the night but are still optimistic they'll find 32-year-old Lon Thongthipvoravong alive.

We're told Thongthipvoravong was the driver of the 18-foot tri-hull boat. It was launched from the American Fork boat harbor Monday afternoon around 4:30. He and five other men were headed to Bird's Island to do some fishing. About an hour into their trip across the lake, the wind picked up, causing 6-foot swells.

The men tried to stabilize the boat, but a wave capsized it, throwing all six men into the water.

Sgt. Tom Hodgson, with the Utah County Sheriff's Office, said, "Three of the individuals, including Lon, stayed with the boat for about 30 minutes. According to one of the witnesses last night, the winds started to buffet them. They were having a hard time staying with the boat, and at one point they decided they better to swim to shore, that was their best avenue for escape."

After swimming for three hours, one of the men did make it to shore and called 911. Search and rescue teams then found the other four throughout the night. Three of the men were have been hospitalized for hypothermia resulting from being in the water for three to eight hours.

The men already rescued have been identified as:

  • Bounthanh Saengkeo, 33, Spanish Fork
  • Chansamone Mixayboua, 34, American Fork
  • Keooudai Sysasith, 34, West Jordan
  • Joe Rajszvong, 31, South Jordan
  • Soukita Thongthipvoravong, 30, Orem

Once those men were on shore, they informed authorities that the last time they saw Thongthipvorazong was near the boat. They said he was holding onto the boat's motor cover.

"We also have some information that he may have grabbed the seat cushion when he let go of that. There were six seat cushions with this particular boat, right now we have located four of those six. We're still missing two. We're optimistic at this point, obviously, that Lon is hanging onto one of those seat cushions," Hodgson said.

Search and rescue teams are collecting wreckage from the boat in an effort to determine exactly what happened.

Family members of all the men on board the boat have been at Utah Lake all morning. They say Thongthipvoravong is a very good swimmer.

Overnight as many as 65 people searched for the men using helicopters, an airplane and 10 boats. The lake water was 63 to 65 degrees. Harris says the lake can be treacherous and conditions can change quickly.

The boat was found submerged in water an eighth of a mile from the shore.

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Story compiled with contributions from Randall Jeppesen, Shara Park and The Associated Press.

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