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Kayaker Rescued, Second Succumbs To Hypothermia

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

National Park News

On the morning of Friday, June 22nd, Bruce Hofstedt, 55, and his close friend Theodore Yox, 52, departed from Meyers Beach in single person kayaks during calm lake conditions. The Friday morning forecast, however, called for northeast winds increasing to 10 to 20 knots by late morning, with waves building from two to four feet. The men paddled two miles to the Mainland Seacaves, then eastward along a two-mile stretch of steep sandstone bluffs. Upon their return, the wind increased rapidly and created waves that were three to four feet high. Hofsteadt’s kayak overturned in a strong wave backwash from the sea caves. Yox tried to assist him, but also capsized due to the rough lake conditions. The high vertical cliffs and extensive sea caves offered no place for the kayakers to land. The two men attempted to swim with their kayaks but soon became separated. Yox made it to a submerged ledge at the base of the cliff and was able to stand in chest deep water. Hofstedt was last seen hanging onto his kayak, drifting southwest along the sea caves toward Meyers Beach. Visitors hiking on the Mainland Trail above the sea caves saw two empty kayaks and a person floating face down in the water. One of them ran back to Meyers Beach and reported the incident to a ranger at approximately 1:30 p.m. Park dispatch notified protection rangers, the Coast Guard, and the Bayfield County Sheriffs Department. One USCG vessel was conducting training at Cornucopia and was able to respond to the scene within six minutes. Crew members quickly located both men. Hofstedt was floating face down and was unresponsive when pulled from the water, so CPR was begun. The USCG vessel could not approach Yox due to violent wave conditions at the base of the cliff, so he was pulled aboard the vessel with a rope tied to a ring buoy. Hofstedt and Yox were transported four miles to Cornucopia, then taken by ambulance to the Ashland Medical Center. Hofsteadt was flown by helicopter to Duluth, but hospital efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.  Yox was treated and released from the Ashland hospital that evening. Both kayakers were wearing life jackets at the time they capsized but were not wearing either wet suits or dry suits. It’s not known if Hofsteadt’s life jacket was zipped and fastened properly. At noon that day, the automated Devils Island weather station recorded wind speeds at 12 knots with a recorded air temperature of 45 degrees. The water temperature at Meyers Beach was approximately 41 degrees with waves estimated at three to four feet. When interviewed the next day, Yox told rangers that both men were in the water for over two hours. Yox said that he’d visited the sea caves on four prior occasions. Hofstedt was an avid canoeist, but this was his first time in a kayak on Lake Superior.


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