Eleven Kayakers Rescued from Sand Island

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Date: July 12, 2016
Contact: Chris Smith, 715-779-3398, ext. 1801

Bayfield, WI – During severe thunderstorms that caused widespread flooding in the region Monday night, the National Park Service (NPS) and Coast Guard (USCG) personnel rescued 11 kayakers that capsized and washed up on Sand Island within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. At about 8pm on Monday, July 11, NPS and USCG rescuers responded to a report of kayakers in the water off Sand Island. Upon arrival of the rescuers, the kayakers had made it to shore, cold and wet. The Coast Guard and the Park Service worked together to get the people off the island and back to the NPS visitor center at Little Sand Bay. Stormy sea conditions were heavy with four foot waves and heavy surf on the beach.

This storm was predicted to be severe, and it was. Waves of very heavy rain accompanied by lightning buffeted the lake for hours. Boaters should always check the weather forecast before launching, make sure their vessels are seaworthy and be prepared to spend extra time waiting out the weather. Kayakers should always wear a wet/dry suit and a PFD when paddling and stay together as a group.

Three National Park Service vessels with seven personnel and one Coast Guard vessel with four aboard responded. The stormy seas and darkness combined to complicate the rescue. The two agencies worked hand in hand to access the beach and remove the group, several of whom were juveniles. The kayakers were pulled from the beach onto an NPS vessel. The group was then transferred to the USCG 45’ boat so they could warm up inside the larger vessel. All vessels returned to Little Sand Bay, where the group stayed in the park Visitor Center until morning.

Last updated: November 1, 2016

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