One man was rescued and another drowned Monday after the kayak they had taken out into the winds and waves of Lake Michigan overturned in rough seas off the Schoolcraft County mainland.
At about 3:30 p.m. Monday, regional dispatchers received a call from a man who said his son and a friend had taken a kayak out into Lake Michigan off South Barques Point Trail, which is located south of Manistique.
The names of those involved were not released.
The man, who was calling from a vacation rental property they were staying at, said the kayak had overturned. Strong wind prevented his son and his friend from returning to shore.
He told dispatchers he could see the men bobbing in the water next to the kayak.
Neither man had a life jacket. The water temperature was about 50 degrees.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Mike Evink, Michigan State Police troopers from the Manistique detachment, Manistique Public Safety EMS, the Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Office and a Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians tribal officer responded to the scene.
When state police and EMS personnel arrived, they could see the two men in the water a few hundred yards offshore.
Evink launched his department-issued Jet Ski from the beach at the caller’s location. With help from EMS personnel, Evink was able to locate one of the kayakers in the water.
He secured the tired and cold man to the watercraft and returned him to waiting EMS workers. He was taken to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital in Manistique. The kayaker, from Oxford, Michigan, was showing signs of shock and hypothermia.
Evink then began to search for the second kayaker, who was the caller’s son. He soon found the man at the bottom of Lake Michigan at a depth of 8 to 10 feet. He made several attempts to dive to reach the man, but he was not successful.
Michigan State Police said a Manistique Public Safety officer sought treatment for water inhalation after attempting to help reach the kayaker.
Evink contacted dispatchers to clearly mark the location of the body, using his portable police radio’s global positioning satellite signal. He remained in the area until a boat from the sheriff’s office made it to the scene and deputies marked the location with a buoy.
Evink then assisted state police dive team members in recovering the 23-year-old man’s body. He was a resident of Burton, Michigan.
“This incident emphasizes the importance of wearing life jackets while boating,” said Lt. Skip Hagy, a DNR regional law supervisor. “Once again, the Great Lakes have proved they are nothing to underestimate, especially on days with high seas.”
After working for a year as a law enforcement officer with the city of Cadillac, Evink was hired as a conservation officer with the DNR in 2010. A native of Grand Rapids, Evink was assigned to the Upper Peninsula where he remains, serving the residents and visitors of Schoolcraft County.
In January 2017, Evink rescued a propane deliveryman who was overcome with carbon monoxide as he tried to save an unconscious homeowner. Four days earlier, Evink was involved in aiding two stranded snowmobilers in Alger County who said he and a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer saved their lives.
In July 2017, he was recognized by the DNR Law Enforcement Division for saving the life of the deliveryman.
“Michigan conservation officers are often called upon to perform a wide range of duties, responding to accidents and other incidents at a moment’s notice,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Officer Evink has repeatedly shown he is a well-trained professional always ready to answer the call to duty.”
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.
Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.