Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 3, 2013

Child, 8, dies in canoeing accident


---- — GLEN ARBOR — An Ann Arbor boy died after a canoe overturned in chilly Lake Michigan waters during a return trip from North Manitou Island.

Authorities say the child, 8, and his father, 48, canoed Monday from D.H. Day Campground in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to the island, a one-way trip of about 10 miles, and were paddling back to the mainland when the accident occurred about a half-mile from the shore.

Leelanau County Undersheriff Steve Morgan said an investigation into the accident is ongoing and he refused to release the victims' identities. He said both were found wearing life jackets in 55-degree water and suffered from hypothermia.

"The cause of death is hypothermia," he said.

Morgan said the father called D.H. Day Campground personnel from a cell phone at about 8:20 p.m. Sleeping Bear Dunes Chief Ranger Phil Akers said the call came in after the park dispatch office's regular hours and was routed to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's dispatch in Indiana.

Leelanau sheriff's personnel, Glen Lake Fire Department and the United States Coast Guard responded and began a search that extended past nightfall.

Glen Lake Fire Chief John Dodson said the lake's conditions initially made it difficult to spot the canoe.

"The wind and the chop picked up by the point," he said. "That could be some of the problem they had. I would guess there were 3-foot chops."

Dodson said a Coast Guard rescue helicopter eventually spotted the overturned canoe near Sleeping Bear Point more than an hour after the initial call. He said a helicopter performed a basket rescue on the child after CPR was administered.

The child was transported to Munson Medical Center by helicopter and later pronounced dead. The father was transported to the hospital by ambulance. No information was immediately available about his condition.

Morgan said "warnings were relayed" to the father about traveling to North Manitou Island by canoe. Tom Pezetti, attorney for Crystal River Outfitters where the father rented the canoe, said employees advised the father not to undertake a trip to the island. Akers said a park ranger also spoke with the father before the trip.

"I know she discouraged him," he said. "She told him it was a bad idea."

Akers recommended experienced people interested in a small craft voyage to North Manitou Island use a full-length sea kayak instead of a canoe. Dodson said "experience matters" when confronting unpredictable Lake Michigan waters and travelers should file float plans.

"The Manitou passage is notorious for shipwrecks," he said.