Search Continues for Missing Polson Kayaker

Sonar-equipped boats, divers, dogs search for Polson man missing on Flathead Lake since Saturday afternoon

By Beacon Staff

Local authorities are still searching for a Polson man who went kayaking on the south end of Flathead Lake and remains missing.

The Lake County and Flathead County Sheriff’s Offices resumed the search Tuesday morning for Robert W. McDonald of Polson. Local search crews are using a specialized sonar unit to check areas underwater, as well as divers and search dogs.

McDonald left from Bear Harbor Condominiums around noon on Saturday, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. He was paddling a yellow Eclipse kayak. At around 12:30 p.m., he texted a photo of the condos from approximately one mile offshore in Polson Bay.

A press release from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office provides a synopsis of the search efforts:

The search for missing kayaker, Dr. Robert McDonald, a physician at St. Joseph Medical Center, resumed today at 9:00 AM.  The Lake County Sheriff’s Office boat and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office boat were both on the water early.  Both boats searched used their respective side sonar equipment to search under the water surface.  The Flathead County Sheriff’s boat scanned the bottom out from the west shore of Polson Bay.  The Lake County boat followed up on a citizen tip on a possible sighting of the missing kayak.

Further investigation determined a time line for the series of events that occurred on Saturday, July 19th.

1:15 to 1:30 PM – first group of boaters spotted a kayak floating upside down in the bay, try to tow it to shore unsuccessfully.  Heavy wave action causes kayak to break free and towing attempt is abandoned.

3:30 PM – second group of boaters spotted kayak just under the water’s surface.  They successfully pulled it onto their bigger boat and took the kayak to residence on Rocky Point.  Authorities believe that this was the same kayak located by the first boating group as one of the carrying handles was missing.

7/20/14 – AM – Boating group with recovered kayak informed about missing kayaker and call Lake County Dispatch.

Authorities were unable to positively identify the recovered kayak as belonging to Dr. McDonald as there were no specific markings found on the boat.

Triangulation of the coordinates and locations given by the two groups of boaters allowed authorities to narrow the search to a smaller area along the west shore of the bay.  To assist the Sheriff’s Office boats, Lake County Search and Rescue , who have been staffing the command operations center, put their two boats on the water at around 11:00 AM and 2:45 PM respectively.  SAR boat 1 came back to shore, picked up a search dog and then went back on the water to the smaller search area.

At approximately, 5:45 PM, the search dog hit on an area along the west shore.  Lake County Sheriff’s deputies and SAR personnel headed to the area to dive and search more specifically.  Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful in their preliminary search.  All personnel were pulled off the search at 7:30 PM this evening with the intentions of resuming the search early tomorrow morning.

Further information will be released as it becomes available.


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