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Search For And Rescue Of Two Kayakers

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

National Park News

On the morning of July 17th, Carlee Witteveen, 37, and her brother Craig Witteveen, 46, both of Grand Rapids, Michigan, departed from their illegal beach campsite on Lake Michigan and paddled north in their kayaks in an attempt to round Sleeping Bear Point to the east and go ashore at Glen Haven, where they had left their vehicle. They found themselves unable to make the turn due to the 25 to 30 knot southerly winds that were blowing up four to six foot waves on the lake. They became exhausted and ultimately were pushed three to five miles offshore in Sleeping Bear Bay. Craig Witteveen managed to call 911 on his cell phone to report their situation. Carlee Witteveen subsequently swamped her river-style kayak and had to abandon the boat. The water temperature at the time was approximately 66 degrees, with air temperatures over 85 degrees.  Both were wearing life jackets, but had no thermal protection. Intermittent cell phone contact between Craig Witteveen and Leelanau County dispatch allowed responding vessels from the NPS, sheriff’s office and a DNR vessel to converge on their approximate locations. After approximately 70 minutes of searching, Craig Witteveen was able to provide the 911 dispatcher with GPS coordinates he obtained from his cell phone. Once provided the coordinates, search teams found the drifting kayakers and they were rescued by a sheriff’s department marine patrol vessel. Both were okay. Due to strong winds and building sea conditions, the outcome could have been much worse for the kayakers if they had not had their cell phone, as they had not filed a float plan and no one knew they were there.


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