Minnesota kayaker dies in Apostle Islands

Reported today in the Duluth News Tribune:
“An afternoon kayaking trip by four friends in the Apostle Islands turned tragic Tuesday after waves put two — one of whom died — in the water. Authorities are not releasing the kayakers’ names pending notification of family. The four college friends — two of whom are brothers — are from southern Minnesota.According to the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department, the kayakers were kayaking the 1½ miles from Little Sand Bay to Sand Island. About two-thirds of the way over, one of the kayaks started taking on water in four-foot waves. The kayak became submerged, and the paddler left his kayak. As the three other kayakers turned around to help, another kayaker capsized. This paddler directed the two remaining kayakers to assist the first person. They had him hang onto one of the kayaks and paddled to Sand Island. As they did they lost sight of the second kayaker in the water.Once the trio reached Sand Island, one kayaker returned to the mainland to call for help.The Bayfield County Communications Center received a 911 call reporting the missing man at 5:33 p.m. Emergency workers responded and began an air, water and shoreline search.Around 8 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard reported they had located the missing man and they were starting CPR. The victim was transported to Little Sand Bay, where the Ashland Paramedics and Life Link III medical crew, along with the Red Cliff Ambulance EMTs, continued unsuccessful resuscitation efforts.The cause of death was hypothermia, according to the Bayfield County Coroner. The deceased was wearing a life jacket and had attempted to get into a wetsuit he had with him.”

This could very easily have been the paddlers Ron and I came across on our last trip to the islands.

6.9.2011 – Further details of the conditions from the Duluth News Tribune

The area was under a small-craft advisory at the time, said Carol Christenson, warning coordination meteorologist for the Weather Service in Duluth. A measuring station in Port Wing — about
25 miles from the accident scene — recorded north-northeast winds of 25 mph gusting to 30 mph Tuesday. “The peak wind was a 28.9-knot (33.2-mph) gust at 4:40 p.m.,” she said

6.9.2011 – Further details of the paddlers equipment from the BYM Marine & Maritime News

According to news reports the paddler was dressed in a T-Shirt and swim trunks, the news reports also point out he was wearing a blue life jacket making it hard to locate him:

“A rescue kayakcrew aboard a 25-foot Response Kayak-Small from Coast Guard Station Bayfield, Wisc., immediately launched to search the area and found the missing man unresponsive in Little Sand Bay at about 8 p.m., with a blue life jacket and the bottom half of a wetsuit on. His friends reported that, when they last saw him, he was wearing the life jacket, swim trunks and a t-shirt and carrying the wetsuit when he got underway.
The fact that he was found with his wetsuit only halfway on leads responders to believe he was attempting to don the wetsuit after he entered the water, said Chief Petty Officer James Robertson, officer-in-charge of Station Bayfield. Robertson added that the kayakcrew only saw him once they were relatively close, because his blue life jacket made him blend in with the color of the water.” 

I emailed the Cost Guard to see if they have information on the type of Kayak, and spray skirt being used. They did not keep those details and they have referred me to the DNR – I am waiting to see if they will share that information as it may help us all learn more about why this happened.

A local source provided this update:
3 white water kayaks, 1 rec kayak (probably no skirt)

6.20.2011 – Update: I have been in communication with the DNR who informed me that the kayak was a Current Designs Squamish. In is intersting to note this kayak has closed cell foam bulkheads, I have not been able to find out if a bulkhead failed or hatch cover broke. The kayaker was wearing a Type III PFD. Acording to the reviews I read on Paddling.net these kayaks have had issues with qater getting into the rear compartment in rough conditions. there is also a note of the hatches falling off when the kayak rolls.

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