Tragic kayaking accident
On friday a tragic accident occured on the Lake Vänern in southern Sweden. Two very experienced multisport kayakers went for a routine workout paddling along the islands of the northern archepilago. When surfing between two islands one of them capsized and was helped by the other to get into the kayak but capsized immediately again due to a large amount of water in the hull. The kayaker then removed a float bag to use as extra floatation when being towed by the other to the nearest land – approx half a mile away.
The weather was generally fine with a moderate westerly wind and some following sea - but just above freezing in the water. The paddlers seems to have had neoprene farmer-johns, semi dry paddle jackets and whitewater-type pfd's.
Without the float bag the kayak sank. In the freezing cold water he could not hold on to the other kayak and was told to lie on the aft deck. After a few minutes he slipped off causing the other kayak to capsize as well. Together they swam with the kayak to the nearest shore.
The victim was pulled ashore on a small rock almost unconsious. The other tried to alert the rescue service but the cellphone battery went dead in the low temperature before the position was clearly stated, causing the rescue force to start searching on the wrong island.
He had then no other option but to abandon his unconsious friend and swim the 150 m to the next larger island and run a mile to find a house where he could use a phone. The victim was then picked up by the rescue forces and rushed to the hospital with a core temperature of 25° C, having spent 50 minutes in the cold water and some more on the rock. He died later in the hospital.
We have very few severe accidents with kayaks in Sweden, normally only one or two annually, and often caused by medical issues like heart failure. This is due to a generally high level of competence and education among the paddlers and the habit of wearing pfd's at all times at sea (tops international statistics). It seems from the reports that a series of unfortunate events, possibly in combination with underestimating the risks involved - but in spite of the heroic effort of his partner - in this case was the reason for the fatal outcome.