Final DNR Report: Deadly Lake Superior kayaking accident due to overloaded boat, inexperience
Dec 18, 2018 09:18AM
● By Editor
By Keith Uhlig of the Wausau Daily Herald - December, 17, 2018
A Lake Superior kayaking accident that took the lives of a Loyal father and three children was caused by an overloaded boat and the inexperience of the kayakers, state investigators have concluded.
The report lays out new details about the accident that day and the family's desperate fight for survival.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' final investigation into the Aug. 30 incident also said "passenger behavior" and hazardous water conditions contributed to capsizing the 13.5-foot kayak.
The kayak's occupants, Eric Fryman, 39, his wife, Cari Mews-Fryman, and the couple's three children, Annaliese, 9; Kyra, 5; and Jansen, 3, all from Loyal, were plunged into 66-degree water.
Eric Fryman and the three children died. Cari Mews-Fryman was rescued around 10 p.m. by a U.S. Geological Survey research ship, the Kiyi.
DNR wardens conducted the final investigation, which was based on interviews with Cari Mews-Fryman, witnesses and input from other investigating agencies including coroners, the Ashland County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The detailed report shows how treacherous it can be to paddle Lake Superior, especially for boaters unprepared for its cold water and choppy waves.
According to the report, the Fryman family rented a home for the week on Madeline Island and intended to stay until Labor Day. The family set out on their two-seat, sit-on-top kayak around 1 p.m. on a clear, 75-degree day. Their aim was Michigan Island.
One child sat in the bow of the boat. Cari Mews-Fryman sat in the front seat, Eric Fryman sat in the back seat and the other two children sat on the floor of the boat between Eric and Cari.
Mews-Fryman later told investigators that the waves on Lake Superior picked up while they were paddling, and the kayak took on water. The family was bailing out the kayak when a wave hit the side. One of the children panicked and jumped out of the boat, causing it to tip and send the entire family into the water.
All five were wearing personal flotation devices, swimwear or light clothing. The kayak took on too much water for the adults to tip it upright. The couple tried to place the children on top of the kayak, but they kept sliding off.
A DNR investigation says this boat was overloaded when it tipped over on Lake Superior. The accident cost a father and three children their lives. (Photo: Courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)
Finally, they decided that Eric Fryman and the children would swim to Michigan Island. One child took off, and Fryman put one child on his back and held another in his arms.
Mews-Fryman found a dry pack with a cell phone and tried to call the Coast Guard and 911. She also texted her sister shortly after 4 p.m., but reception was bad and that message did not go through until hours later.
Gogebic County in Michigan had received the 911 attempts and Mews-Fryman's sister, Bobi Mews, called authorities. The messages started an all-out search for the family. The U.S. Coast Guard recovered the bodies of Fryman and two of the children between 11 p.m. and midnight. The third child was found around 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 31 by National Park Service rangers. Their deaths were caused by hypothermia and drowning, according to the report.
For more on this story and to read related articles, follow this link to the Wausau Daily Herald website. https://www.wausaudailyherald.com/story/news/2018/12/17/dnr-lake-superior-kayaking-tragedy-caused-ov...