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Video Report: Series of errors in kayak accident that killed dad, 3 kids on Lake Superior

Nov 20, 2018 12:35PM ● By Editor

From KMSP Fox 9 TV - November 19, 2018

(KMSP) - A Wisconsin DNR investigative report reveals a series of errors by the family who tipped their kayak in Lake Superior near Madeline Island in late August, leading to the deaths of the three children and their father. Their mother survived.

Eric Fryman, Cari Mews and their three young children arrived on Madeline Island for a long weekend at the end of August.

After lunch on Friday of that week, the family left in a two-person kayak, with room for a third in the middle.

It was the first mistake, of several, documented in the report. It includes pictures and information the public is getting to see for the first time.  

Cliff Schmidt is a marine investigator with nearly 40 years’ experience and a former deputy with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department.  He agreed to review the case file for the Fox 9 Investigators. 

“One of the biggest concerns with Lake Superior is the water temperature; it fluctuates very little in the summer time. It’s always cold, so that’s a concern,” he said. 


What alarmed him most after reading the report was the type of watercraft used by the family.

“Sit-on-top kayak is more of an ocean kayak, warm water kayak, interior lake kayak, or very near shore kayak. I wouldn’t venture out more than 150 feet in the kayak,” Schmidt commented.

In a kayak that offered no protection from the elements, the father made a fateful decision for his family, to try to paddle to the lighthouses on Michigan Island.  

From Madeline Island on a clear day, it looks tantalizingly close, but it’s nearly four miles away. 

All five family members were wearing life vests and had paddles. However, they were dressed in light clothes, with just a few supplies, a couple packs of cigarettes, a lighter, flashlight, and cell phone. 

The weight of all five in the 13 ft. kayak was 442 pounds, just under its 500-pound capacity.  

The problem was the way the weight was distributed. 

The parents were in the two seats, the nine-year old, Kyra, in the middle, holding her three-year-old brother, Jansen, in her lap. Five-year old, Annaliese sat near the bow. 

A local angler in the area recalled saying, “Look at that” when he saw the family crowded in the small kayak. The waves were “2 to 3 feet”, he said, the current “running north extremely hard.”

“You change the attitude and position of the bow which causes more water to come under the bow, which could cause someone to think they were sinking,” Schmidt said.

To read the rest of this report and related coverage, follow this link to the Fox 9 website.

Watch the Fox 9 Investigative Report on the Accident here

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here