Wisconsin Mother Sole Survivor Of Kayaking Accident That Killed Family

Wisconsin Lake
Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

People reported Monday that a Wisconsin woman is the sole survivor of a kayaking accident that killed her husband and three children.

The tragic accident occurred in the middle of Lake Superior on Thursday afternoon. An hour or so after the family began kayaking, winds began to pick up speed, causing their kayak to fill up with water and eventually capsize.

According to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Justin Sickler, the area where the kayak capsized is “known for having very unforgiving weather and being able to turn in an instant.” Sickler also told reporters that the mother only survived the accident because she had clung to the kayak to call for help, separating herself from the rest of her family. Unfortunately, her text message to her sister, that read “911 Michigan Island,” took nearly four hours to send because of the area’s poor cell reception. By the time the woman’s sister was able to contact her local authorities, it was “approximately 8:20 p.m.”

The Ashland County Sheriff’s Office identified the woman as 29-year-old Cari A. Mews, and her now deceased husband was identified as Erik D. Fryman. While the names of her three children have not been released, the sheriff’s office released a statement saying that they were “ages 3, 6, and 9 years old.”

After Mew’s sister reached out to authorities, police were able to determine that “the family had left the island in a kayak earlier in the day with the intention of touring the Apostle Island.”

A search and rescue mission was quickly conducted thereafter. The U.S. Coast Guard and the USGS Research Vessel KIYI were among the five organizations to locate Mews and her family.

Mews was discovered first at around 10 p.m. RN KIYI rescuers found her on the western side of Michigan Island. It wasn’t until hours later that the rest of her family was finally located. Local authorities reported that “the father and two of the children were found deceased in the water after midnight” and the third child was found the next morning.

The sheriff’s office released a statement saying that “the mother indicated that the family’s kayak had capsized off the shore of Michigan Island.”

“While attempting to swim to Michigan Island,” the statement continued, “she became separated from her husband and children. All of the family members were wearing life jackets.”

The investigation, however, is still open, pending an autopsy from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.