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Kayakers, Sailboat Crew Rescued In Separate Same-Day Incidents

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

National Park News

On the afternoon of July 16th, the US Coast Guard notified NPS dispatch that a 26-foot sailboat was in distress near the park. The vessel had a sail line wrapped around its prop and was taking on water.  Waves were running three to four feet and the sailboat was drifting directly toward Madeline Island, which is located outside of the park. Rangers Mike Larsen and John Pavkovich and maintenance employees Steve Witt and Tom Richardson responded aboard the NPS Eagle. They assisted the Coast Guard by transferring two people and their dog off the drifting sailboat and transported them to port in Bayfield, Wisconsin. The Coast Guard then towed the sailboat back to the Bayfield City marina. As park staff were about to clear from this incident, they received a report of a kayaker stranded on Long Island, located within the park. The NPS crew responded and found two overturned kayaks with two men in the water clinging to their vessels a half mile west of Long Island. The kayakers, 56-year-old Steve Kirchen of Bloomington, Illinois, and 63-year-old Virgil Buss Jr. of Rockford, Illinois, were in 52 degree water for more than two hours before they were rescued by NPS personnel. Both men appeared to be in mild to moderate stages of hypothermia and were transported to awaiting ambulances in Bayfield. The Bayfield Ambulance Service transported both men to Memorial Medical Center in Ashland, where they were treated and released from the hospital later that evening.  Kirchen and Buss were part of a group of seven kayakers that became separated and capsized in three- to four-foot seas. The wind was recorded at 20 mph and air temperature was 60 degrees at the time of the incident.


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