APOSTLE ISLANDS NATIONAL LAKESHORE — A mother is the sole survivor after her husband and their three children died when their kayak capsized late Thursday off Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands, authorities said.
The family of five was touring the islands when their watercraft overturned about a mile west of Michigan Island before 8:30 p.m., authorities said Friday.
The father was identified as Erik D. Fryman, 39, and the mother as Cari A. Mews, 29, both of Loyal in west-central Wisconsin.
The father and two of the children were found dead in the water after midnight, according to the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office. Strong thunderstorms overnight hampered rescue efforts. The body of the third child was recovered near the island at approximately 10 a.m. Friday.
The mother, who had become separated from the rest of the group, was in the water off Michigan Island just after 10 p.m. Thursday. She was pulled to safety by the crew of the U.S. Geological Survey research vessel Kiyi.
Master Chief Alan Haraf of the Ninth Coast Guard District said the children were ages 3, 6 and 9.
Haraf said the storms had yet to move in when the kayak went down, but there was an apparent shift in the weather as the family kayaked between Stockton and Michigan Islands. All five members were wearing life jackets when the kayak capsized.
“They were en route to their destination on Michigan Island when it started looking nasty,” Haraf said. “They started to get swamped with water, and that’s when they went under.”
Haraf said the family was known to make frequent visits to the Apostle Islands and had experience kayaking.
The sheriff’s office reported the search began when the mother’s sister alerted authorities to “alarming” text messages she had received from the woman reading “911” and “Michigan Island.”
The La Pointe Police Department investigated and learned that the family had been vacationing on Madeline Island and left earlier in the day with the intention of touring the lakeshore by kayak. The U.S. Coast Guard, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bayfield Fire and Rescue and National Park Service all participated in the search effort.
Haraf, who described the incident as “awful,” said the father apparently attempted to swim to shore with the three children, while the mother remained at the scene of the capsizing with the vessel and their supplies, sending the text messages to her sister.
Haraf said the rescue crews worked around the clock, with a relief shift coming in at about 2 a.m. He said the incident weighed heavily on the responders from the Coast Guard Station Bayfield and all the other agencies involved.
“This crew is really hurting,” Haraf said. “They’re really devastated. Crews train for this, to get the call and go out. They have expectations of helping someone and bringing them to safety. So they’re pretty discouraged. In this case, there’s four members of the same family, and when some of the crew members have children in the same age group, it hits them hard. There are a lot of heavy hearts at the station.”