Mom Is Only Survivor of Lake Superior Kayak Accident That Killed Husband, 3 Kids

A family's kayak capsized due to strong winds and waves.
A family's kayak capsized due to strong winds and waves. (Getty)

A mother-of-three was the sole survivor after a kayak accident during a vacation on Lake Superior left her family dead.

Cari Mews, 29, of Loyal, Wisconsin, was rescued by a USGS research vessel after she had been in the frigid water for hours.

Her husband, Eric Fryman, 39, and three kids, Kyra, 9, Annaliese, 5, and Jansen, 3, were found dead later that night and the following morning. 

They had all been wearing life jackets.

Mews’ sister, Bobbi Jo Mews, said the family had taken a short getaway “before school starts” to Madeline Island on Lake Superior. It was their second time taking the trip.

“They loved to go camping together and they took their kids everywhere and explored the world,” Bobi Jo Mews told WCCO.

The family was kayaking from Madeline Island to Michigan Island on Thursday afternoon when choppy waters and strong winds caused their kayak to capsize, authorities said.

While attempting to swim to shore, Mews became separated from her husband and children.

Mews was able to use her phone contained in a waterproof bag to send two short text messages to her sister – one reading “911” and the other reading “Michigan Lake.”

Her sister, however, didn’t receive the messages until several hours later, at about 8 p.m.

“I knew that they were going kayaking that day. ... I just knew I had to call the police to see if they could go look for them," Bobi Jo Mews said.

She contacted the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office, which was able to get in touch with nearby authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard to search for the family.

The USGS Research Vessel KIYI spotted Mews in the water at around 10 p.m. that night, thanks to the flashlight on her cellphone, authorities said.

Authorities located the bodies of Fryman, her son and a daughter after midnight that night.

After heavy thunderstorms struck the area, the body of their 9-year-old daughter was found on the shore the following morning.

Authorities are taking the opportunity to warn the public to be careful in open water.

"Even with all the required safety equipment and all the right training, anything can happen when you get out on the lake," Coast Guard spokesman Justin Sickler told WCCO.

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