A family of five went on a kayak ride to Lake Superior. Only one returned alive.
Cari Mews-Fryman, 29, set out from Madeline Island in an open-top tandem kayak to a 4-mile journey to Michigan Island along with her three children — 9-year-old Kyra, 5-year-old Annaliese and 3-year-old Jansen — and her husband, 39-year-old Eric Fryman. All of them were wearing life jackets.
The family was in open waters when the wind suddenly started picking up and water became choppy. Their kayak got filled with water and flipped over, sending all five of them into the water, reported U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Alan Haraf.
While attempting to gather an emergency bag from the overturned kayak, the waves in the lake separated Mews-Fryman from her husband and children. The last she saw of them was her husband gathering the children and making his way to Michigan Island. She could hear them yelling so she thought they had made their way to land.
She was wrong.
Mews-Fryman was able to get a waterproof bag from the kayak which had a cell phone. As she drifted in the water, she managed to text “911. Michigan Island,” to her sister, Bobi Jo Mews. Unfortunately, the message could only get delivered after five hours because there was no cell phone reception in the area.
After Bobi Mews got the ominous message, she immediately called authorities and was able to mobilize several agencies to rescue her sister and her family. The Coast Guard also issued a broadcast telling all boats in the area to divert to where the kayak had capsized.
Around 10 p.m., a Coast Guard vessel saw a small light coming from the waters near Michigan Island. It was Mews-Fryman who was holding a cell phone light. The woman had been submerged in 60-degree water for six hours and was unable to speak.
"She was exhausted and was suffering from hypothermia,” Hafar told CNN.
It was a little after midnight when the Coast guard crew found the bodies of the husband and two of the children, 3-year-old Jansen and 5-year-old Annaliese. They were unable to find the body of 9-year-old Kyra for several hours because of thunderstorms in the area, but she was eventually located on the shores of Michigan Island by the National Park Service.
It’s presumed that hypothermia may have been the cause of death, particularly for the children.
Without a wetsuit, hypothermia can set in within 30-60 minutes in the 60-degree water of Lake Superior during this time, according to Scott Kluver, co-owner of a kayaking tour company.
Open-top kayaks, like the one used by Mews-Fryman’s family are good for calm waters but can easily fill with water and overturn in rough weathers, according to Gail Green, who offers kayak tours of the island.
Bob Krumenaker, superintendent of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, said, “Some of the places that people want to go kayaking are incredibly attractive but also deceptively dangerous… This particular incident happened in a place that is not often traversed by people on kayaks, and for good reason.”
He also said storms can come up fast in the lake although the one that struck on Thursday was predicted.
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