GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A racer has died after competing in a canoeing competition this weekend on Lake Michigan.
The City of Frankfort Fire & Rescue said it was dispatched for a water rescue at approximately 2:10 p.m. on Saturday for a struggling kayaker. Within the hour, the kayaker was spotted and a Coast Guard helicopter was able to retrieve the man.
Medical personnel got to work quickly to try and warm the patient, but he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Munson Hospital in Traverse City.
The Michigan Canoe Racing Association released a statement on the group’s Facebook page from one of the competitors who identified the racer as one of its members: Nick Walton.
According to the MCRA, Walton was competing in an unaffiliated race from Point Betsie to Peterson Beach.
“The air temps were in the low 50s and the water was probably even colder,” the statement said. “The waves were big, and the wind was strong. Nick and many others fell off there (sic) boats multiple times just trying to get out through the surf. Nick wouldn’t quit remounting and managed to make it a couple miles down the shore, but he was in the water as much or more than he was paddling. The race organizers could see him with binoculars, and he just kept getting back on (and) trying again. The Coast Guard was called when they saw him no longer mounting his boat.”
The statement continued: “Nick died fighting today, and I believe he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Many feel blessed to have called him a canoe partner and a friend. He will be missed deeply in our paddling community.”