Kayak found in Flathead Lake; crews narrow search for missing Polson doctor

2014-07-22T12:51:00Z 2014-07-25T17:21:05Z Kayak found in Flathead Lake; crews narrow search for missing Polson doctorBy ALICE MILLER Missoulian The Billings Gazette
July 22, 2014 12:51 pm  • 

POLSON – The kayak of a Polson doctor missing on Flathead Lake since Saturday may have been found as early as Saturday afternoon, and new information about the kayak’s location has helped searchers narrow their scope.

It has been determined that a kayak matching the description of Dr. Robert McDonald’s boat was first found at about 1:15 Saturday afternoon, according to information from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

McDonald, a 43-year-old hospitalist at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, left Bear Harbor condominiums around noon Saturday in a yellow kayak. About an hour later he sent a text from Polson Bay looking back at Bear Harbor. He was reported missing at 11:15 p.m. that night.

When the kayak was first found, it was floating upside down in the bay. A group of boaters tried to tow it to shore, but heavy wave action caused the kayak to break free and the boaters abandoned their efforts.

“They just figured it had floated off somebody else’s dock,” said Karen Sargeant, public information officer for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

About two hours later, another group of boaters spotted the kayak, this time underwater. They pulled the kayak onto their boat and took it to a residence on Rocky Point. They also did not initially call authorities.

On Sunday morning, the boaters learned of the missing kayaker and called Lake County dispatch.

While the kayak matches the description of McDonald’s, it has not been confirmed to be his, Sargeant said. However, the coordinates from where it was found have allowed searchers to narrow the search area to a smaller zone along the west shore of Polson Bay.

Although a search dog hit on an area along the west shore at about 5:45 p.m. Monday, a preliminary search by divers did not find McDonald, who is presumed deceased.

Search efforts concluded at about 7:30 p.m. Monday and resumed at about 8 on Tuesday morning, with Lake County and Flathead County sheriff’s boats searching the area along the shoreline from Bear Harbor to Gribe Bay.

McDonald is described as 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds, with gray hair and blue eyes. He was not wearing a personal flotation device, according to authorities.

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