Storms cut search for missing Flathead Lake kayaker Wednesday

2014-07-24T06:52:00Z 2014-07-25T17:21:05Z Storms cut search for missing Flathead Lake kayaker WednesdayBy ALICE MILLER Missoulian The Billings Gazette
July 24, 2014 6:52 am  • 

POLSON – Expected severe thunderstorms cut short Wednesday’s search efforts on Flathead Lake for a Polson doctor missing since Saturday.

As was the case when 43-year-old Dr. Robert McDonald left Bear Harbor condominiums in his yellow kayak, Wednesday’s lake conditions were windy and choppy, hampering divers’ efforts.

In anticipation of more severe weather, searchers came off the lake in mid-afternoon, said Karen Sargeant, spokeswoman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The hospitalist at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Polson was reported missing shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday. He left Bear Harbor at about noon that day and sent a photo from his phone roughly an hour later.

A kayak matching the description of McDonald’s boat was found at 1:15 p.m. Saturday and the group of boaters tried to tow it back to shore, but it broke loose because of heavy waves. Another group of boaters successfully brought the kayak to shore after finding it about two hours later. When they became aware of the missing doctor Sunday morning, they called dispatch immediately, Sargeant said.

Dogs hit on a spot Monday and showed interest in several more Tuesday, but the search failed to find McDonald, who is presumed deceased. On Wednesday, searchers continued to methodically comb the west shore of Polson Bay, but to no avail.

Efforts are expected to resume Thursday, as are less-than-ideal weather and lake conditions, Sargeant said.

“We’re tirelessly trying to find (McDonald),” she said. “Like I said, you’ve got to work with the weather; you’ve got to work with the lake.”

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