Update: Texas man dies in Mendenhall Lake kayak accident
A cruise ship passenger from Texas died Sunday after a kayak accident on Mendenhall Lake.
Michael Ray Fullerton, 62, of Georgetown, Texas, was among four family members who rented kayaks for a paddle on the lake.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole said Fullerton apparently became fatigued and was unable to paddle.
“The group tied their kayaks together and it’s still unclear to us at this point how the kayaks overturned,” Cole said.
He said a Forest Service special agent and law enforcement officer are still conducting interviews on the accident. He said he was told that Fullerton was in the water for approximately 30 minutes.
“They had flagged down a canoeist who came to rescue them,” he said. “They were all taken to the beach.”
Fire Chief Rich Etheridge said the kayakers were arriving on shore when Capital City Fire and Rescue got there about 5:30 p.m., responding to a call about people in the water.
Etheridge said one man, now known to be Fullerton, was not breathing and the medical team performed CPR. He was transported to Bartlett Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“The other remaining people were treated for mild hypothermia, transported to the hospital and just kind of everybody met up at the hospital where the family was treated and released,” Etheridge said.
The names of the other family members have not yet been made available.
The family apparently was on the Rhapsody of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship. They rented tandem kayaks and safety gear from Alaska Boat and Kayak in Auke Bay about 3 p.m., according to owner Sean Janes. He said the group was not on a guided trip. He said they were all given a safety briefing before they loaded their kayaks and gear in their car to drive to the lake.
“They get questioned about how much paddle experience they’ve had, and then they get a thorough safety briefing that talks about self-rescue, using the bilge pump, paddle float, wearing the PFD and spray skirt, and how to work together and paddle as a group,” he said.
Janes said the group also was given information about paddling on Mendenhall Lake, staying away from icebergs and the glacier, and places along the glacier where boaters should stay at least 200 yards from the face.
“And we’ve got it on a laminated map, so people are able to see that map and see some of the hazards around the area,” he said. “So we’re trying to outfit them with as much knowledge and safety tools as possible.”
Janes said tandem kayaks are very stable boats and generally hard to tip over.
Forest Service Supervisor Cole said the agency continues to investigate the accident.