2018-06-07 / Front Page

One man rescued, one died in kayak accident Monday

Incident is second in week, MPS director shares concern

MANISTIQUE – One man was rescued and another drowned Monday after the kayak they had taken out into the winds and waves of Lake Michigan overturned off the mainland of Schoolcraft County.

According to a press release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, regional dispatchers received a call at approximately 3:30 p.m. Monday from a man who said his son and a friend had taken a kayak out into Lake Michigan off South Barques Point Trail, which is located south of Manistique.

The names of those involved are not being released at this time.

The man, who was calling from a vacation rental property in which they were staying, said the kayak had overturned. Strong wind prevented his son and his friend from returning to shore. He told dispatchers he could see the men bobbing in the water next to the kayak.

Neither man had a life jacket. The water temperature was approximately 50 degrees.

Michigan State Police troopers from the Manistique detachment, Manistique Public Safety EMS, the Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Office, a Sault Tribe Police officer, and the DNR responded to the scene.

When state police and EMS personnel arrived, they could see the two men in the water a few hundred yards offshore. DNR Officer Mike Evink launched his department-issued jet ski from the beach at the caller’s location. With the help of EMS personnel, Evink was able to locate one of the kayakers in the water, secure the man to the watercraft, and return him to waiting EMS workers.

The kayaker, from Oxford, Mich., was showing signs of shock and hypothermia and transported to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital.

First responders then began to search for the second kayaker – the caller’s son. Evink and a Manistique Public Safety officer located the man, a 23-year-old from Burton, Mich., at the bottom of Lake Michigan at a depth of 8 to 10 feet. Both made several attempts to dive to reach the man, but were not successful.

According to a Michigan State Police press release, the Manistique Public Safety officer sought treatment for water inhalation after attempting to help reach the kayaker.

Following the attempts to reach the second kayaker, Evink contacted dispatchers to clearly mark the location of the body, using his portable police radio’s global positioning satellite signal. He remained in the area until a boat from the Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department made it to the scene and deputies marked the location with a buoy.

The Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Marine Division, with assistance from Evink, did locate the man’s body, which the MSP Dive Team later retrieved.

“This incident emphasizes the importance of wearing life jackets while boating,” said Lt. Skip Hagy, a DNR regional law supervisor. “Once again, the Great Lakes have proved they are nothing to underestimate, especially on days with high seas.”

The Michigan State Police say no foul play is suspected, but that alcohol is believed to be a factor in the incident.

Troopers were assisted by members of the Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department, Manistique Public Safety, Manistique EMS, Sault Tribal Law Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to a press release from Manistique Public Safety Department Director Ken Golat, the kayaking incident on Lake Michigan is the second such incident in the area this past week. At approximately 5 p.m. on May 29, Manistique Public Safety, MSP, and DNR officers were dispatched to the Manistique River at the Highway M-94 Siphon Bridge after receiving reports that several kayakers were stranded in the west flume section of the river, near UP Paper, LLC.

Upon arriving to the scene, officers found that there were actually four kayaks in the flume with a total of four individuals in distress. One kayak had been overturned. The kayakers were able to get out of the flume by electing to jump off the flume wall into the main portion of the Manistique River.

There were no injuries to civilians or officers in this incident. The individuals involved – all Manistique residents ranging from 20-38 years old, stated that the incident had occurred when they were chasing a lost kayak in the Manistique River upstream of the dam and that they proceeded to go through the dam and into the flume to recover the lost kayak.

Golat noted that the flume portion of the Manistique River is considered private property and that no one is allowed in this portion of the river.

None of the kayakers were wearing personal flotation devices and were written citations as Michigan law requires that PFDs are required when using all watercraft – including kayaks.

“With the growing popularity of kayaks in the Schoolcraft County area, all local law enforcement agencies are extremely concerned about the careless actions and safety issues for persons using the kayaks or other watercraft, which could ultimately lead to lives lost through drowning, either by the recreationists themselves or the first responders attempting to rescue them,” Golat explained. “Recreational kayak users and, particularly, parents of youth using these crafts are implored to realize that these watercraft do require skills for safe operation, that personal floatation devices are a requirement, and that rescue may not be possible due to location of the incident and other unforeseen circumstances beyond control.”

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