DOOR COUNTY – A kayak rental company in Fish Creek says it will make some changes after three of its customers disappeared for 15 hours last week.
Three kayakers were found Friday morning after drifting overnight in the waters of Green Bay. The rescued kayakers are Alison Alter of Austin, Texas; her nine-year-old son, Zachary; and her nine-year-old nephew, Thomas.
Alter told sheriff deputies they kayaked from Peninsula State Park to Horseshoe Island, but on their way back to the park, she said the wind picked up and swept them into open water. The kayakers were found around 6:30 a.m. Friday about 15 miles off course.
“I think it’s a good lesson learned for all of us here in Door County,” said Terry Vogel, Door County Sheriff.
Vogel plans to hold a meeting this Thursday with all of the agencies involved in last week’s search. He explained one concern he’ll raise.
“I think one thing we need to address a little bit is some of the practices of these kayak renters out there to do some more safety features out there,” said Vogel. “There was a lack of communication with the kayakers. If they would have had either a cell phone, radio or some kind of a device with them, this thing would have been over with within minutes probably.”
Vogel says Alter rented the kayaks inside Peninsula State Park. David Zasler, one of the operators of the stand, said he plans to make two changes in the near future.
Zasler says he’ll buy waterproof cases so people can bring their cell phones on the water. He also plans to reduce the area where customers are allowed to travel in his kayaks.
Vogel says he’ll also review whether law enforcement is taking advantage of the best resources.
“With technology developing we have to make sure we use all the technology that’s available to us,” he said.
Vogel says he still isn’t sure exactly how many people were involved in the search or how much it cost.
Tyler Goss, an Operations Petty Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Sturgeon Bay, says his agency already spent some time debriefing Monday morning. Goss says while communication can always get better, his team was ready for the rescue operation.
“It’s a weekly thing,” said Goss. “We go out, two-boat train. We train for search patterns.”
The Coast Guard said two of the kayakers showed signs of hypothermia. They were released from the hospital a few hours after they were rescued.