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Posted on Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

8-year-old Ann Arbor boy dies after canoe overturns in Lake Michigan

By John Counts


A view from the beach of North Manitou Island. An 8-year-old Ann Arbor boy and his father were attempting to canoe back to the mainland from when the canoe overturned. The boy later died from hypothermia.

Photo by Karl Ericson

An 8-year-old Ann Arbor boy died from hypothermia after the canoe he was in with his father overturned on Lake Michigan near Leelanau County in northern Michigan, officials confirmed Tuesday.

The child and his 48-year-old father, also of Ann Arbor, were on a return trip from North Manitou Island to the mainland Monday evening when the canoe tipped over.

Leelenau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich said the boy and his father were found in water that was about 55 degrees. Boats from the U.S. Coast Guard, sheriff’s office and Glen Lake Fire Department were used in the search, Borkovich said.

It’s the first fatal accident in the Leelenau Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction this year, Borkovich said.

“I’m just crushed,” Borkovich said.

He said sheriff’s office officials are not releasing the name of the boy and his father Tuesday. One of the boy’s siblings is camping and officials want to make sure that child hears the news from his family. Other family members have yet to be notified as well.

Authorities were dispatched to an area of the lake near Sleeping Bear Point at 8:29 p.m., according to the Leelanau County Sheriff's Office daily patrol log.

A search effort began as darkness fell, according to the sheriff's log. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter located the overturned canoe about a half-mile offshore and airlifted the boy to Munson Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead from hypothermia, Borkovich said.

The boy's father was also suffering from hypothermia. He was taken to the hospital via ambulance, according to the log. Borkovich said Tuesday the man was treated and released.

The two had canoed D.H. Day Campgrounds to North Manitou Island, where they spent about an hour and a half before attempting the return trip. The father used a cell phone to contact the campground to inform them where they were in the water, according to the log.

Borkovich said the investigation into the incident is on-going.

“There were no drugs or alcohol involved,” he said. “It’s just an accident, an act of God almost.”

Crime reporter Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

SO sad. Can't find words to express the sense of loss for this, because my mind and heart shy away from thinking about it. But at the same time, it is so very compelling somehow. Both reactions are due to it being so close to home--having kids that age, having been 'Up North' and enjoying time on/in Michigan's lakes with them, and especially because I think I know the boy's mother from growing up here in town. But also, because this is perhaps due to something that I could easily identify with, as the father of young kids: wanting to have a special experience of that sort with a child. If this hadn't gone tragically wrong, it would have made for a memory of Michigan's outdoors and of watercraft/boating and so on, that could have been a stand-out for that young boy. I hope that whatever the details of this, we won't shy away from giving our kids that sort of experience, but that just as we now embrace the boy's family and give them support, we will also embrace safety precautions in pursuing those special experiences of nature that can give life meaning.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Good post, summed up my feelings exactly. I guess since this story is really only for condolences, i wish they would do a separate story on safety precautions,etc. I enjoy going up north but the thought of hypothermia in July surprised me and some of the deleted comments had good information/suggestions. Very sorry for the family--one thing I do know about this community is that people come together and take care of their own, especially the school communities.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

Here is a link to an updated story from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

I think the canoe rental folks fulfilled their obligation by warning against that particular plan for the canoe.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

My issue with that is that even on the shallow parts of the Huron near where we live, if they believe the conditions are that bad, they will not let us on the river. Even with our own equipment and determination. If the rental company in this case was so adamant about not going out, then they should not have rented the equipment.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

The waves can be quite rough out there, especially for a small craft. Hopefully people can learn from this terrible tragedy.


Sat, Jul 6, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

Many people make this trip as I did with my Father many years ago, and we had less experience, but conditions were better. This summer has been a different story indeed .There needs to be some kind of tracking system on those canoes going long distances and be brightly colored , so if this happens again they can be located immediately... The whole rescue from the first call took way to long. What a terrifying experience to go through, and the heart wrenching outcome.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 2:40 a.m.

I am really unsure of what he meant: "an act of God almost"

Jay Thomas

Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 2:34 a.m.

Second drowning in a couple of days.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 2:39 a.m.

Wasn't a drowning. An important distinction for those of us paddlers.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 2:31 a.m.

Rest in peace little one.

Joe Hood

Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

An interesting map of the water temperatures of Lake Michigan. Winds are currently pushing the warm water to the western portion of the lake: The eastern portion of the lake was likely colder than normal.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

How terrible! My condolences to the family.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 1:02 a.m.

This has not been a great summer for the great lakes. Usually they warm up by now. Although last year got them into record digits. Unfortunately this year was not to be. What a heart breaker. Another reason I do not do canoe. Good luck to the family.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

What a sad sad story. Those lakes are so beautiful yet so dangerous.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.

very sad. Please, please, please people, be careful out on the water this summer.

El Poquito

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

While I hear the call for "no criticism" or even questioning out of respect for the family at this time, still, I'm sure ann isn't a place the family is coming to for solace or comfort - leaving us who feel that ache of: "that could have been me," to discuss the realities of living in a state that is blessed to have so much water along with water recreation. Our comfort and familiarity of "playing on the beach" can have a desensitizing effect where we lose the perspective of just how powerful these lakes are - and our own smallness in comparison with the forces of nature. I look back upon years of playing with my kids on the water, the risks taken that I didn't even appreciate as a risk until I had more experience and knowledge of just how powerful those waters are. Harsh lessons - that yes, all us city slickers/weekend campers and lovers of the Great Lakes need to discuss and learn as part of our shared water responsibilities. No fault. It could have been many of us, not that that lightens the dad's load one bit. There are no words that can comfort a loss such as this, just the sharing of the fact this is an ordinary dad and son like many of us. i.e. they are not alone.

Kyle Feldscher

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

I spoke with Leelenau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich a short time ago about this. I've updated the story with more information and that should be coming into the entry shortly.

Jack Gladney

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:50 p.m.

And on the TV news as I type this... they are promoting three youngsters who are about to paddle-boat across Lake Michigan from Norton Shores to Milwaukee for charity. The Great Lakes will turn on you in a heartbeat. Apparently those kids and the media promoting their foolishness don't follow the news. Hopefully we won't mourn them as well come this weekend.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

And they almost certainly have a chase boat. So it really has nothing to do with this.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

AmLive is right: This is not the time for criticism, and many questions can be interpreted as just that. As a newspaper editor, I am asking you to not post a comment that you would not want to read if you were the parent of this little boy. As a mom of a boy who loves to canoe - and the wife of a man who enjoys taking him - I'm pleading with you to honor and respect what we ask of commenters on this site. No one starts a journey with this outcome in mind. We'll talk about 'lessons' once this community is done grieving. At this moment we're trying to reach out to the family - without intruding - and hope to soon offer a glimpse of what happened and how we can all help the family with their grief. We're also preparing more coverage surrounding another water death: This community also lost Donovan Gerard Hyter, 21, in the Huron River over the weekend. His family is grieving, too.

Ron Smith

Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Okay Paula, I'll be watching for that "lessons" article. In my experience unfortunately, such "lessons" articles never arrive, or never receive attention matching the original story. Condolences to the family. Respectfully,


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Can I make a plea to not show pictures of vehicles people died in? Especially, before their next of kin are notified.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

Lucinda, I understand how you feel about contacting the family. With my comment, I was trying to convey that I want readers to understand that we're pursing more information and will attempt to answer their questions. However, when some of those answers come will be up to the family, in regards to the personal aspects of this story. Other answers may take time, too. We need to make ourselves available by reaching out to the family, and hope that when the family is ready to talk that they'll in turn find us.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Thank you Paula...

Tom Teague

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

lucinda - in answer to your question, I agree with you that it's natural to wonder about and to want to take lessons from tragedies. But there will be an accident investigation that will provide answers; it will take time to get those details and the lessons will come then. Meanwhile, though, a family and friends are grieving terribly and -- believe me -- some of them are likely reading these comments. The grieving may be neighbors or work associates. I believe readers and commenters should exercise some restraint in what they write.

lucinda walsh

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

I respect your journalistic experience. However, in these cases it seems to me that to reach out so soon is by its nature intrusive. Speaking for myself, I have the basic facts of these cases that will give me pause before I consider similar acts as what the victims did. To me, to go further is a ghoulish thing. What do other readers and journalists think?


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

Commenters - this is not a time for criticisms or even questions, but for compassion. Imagine this is your neighbor / family / friend, and if you wouldn't say something to them right now, please be sensitive and don't say it here either. I feel so sorry for this family, such an unexpected tragedy I find hard to even imagine. This strikes incredibly close to home for me, and I wish the best for everyone through this hard time of grief and healing.

Tom Teague

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

You might be surprised to learn that many people close to victims read the comments. They are looking for support and clarity following a terribly tragic event in their lives.

lucinda walsh

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

I am keeping the family in my thoughts. Unfortunately, it is at times like this when others learn information that can save lives. As long as information is factual and based on personal experience, I think it belongs in the paper. Honestly, those close to the victim are not reading the comments.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

amlive - I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. Too often the questions posted here following tragic stories like this are downright ghoulish. Perhaps it's simple curiosity but it often appears to be looking to place blame. Stories of personal tragedy might no be the appropriate place for public debate over boating/bicycling/auto safety.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 8:11 p.m.

Well said..thank you


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

You left out some important information. Were these people wearing life jackets? Were they swimmers? Were they clothed? (Keeping your clothing on when you're in cold water can save your life. To lose a child is the worst tragedy one can imagine. Sending Blessings to this young boy's family and friends.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

It's not about bringing anyone back, it's about learning from terrible events in order to understand how to better prevent them.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 10:12 p.m.

I don't find it necessary to have every last detail. Common sense will fill in some of the information not specifically stated in the article. And no other information will bring this child back. No doubt his family is grieving, and his family needs the support of Ann Arbor, their home town, not an interrogation. Hoping the boys father recovers from his hypothermia, and hoping the family knows there is a lot of support for them in Ann Arbor.

Linda Moore

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 7:33 p.m.

Julie, I'm sure you mean well; but for a parent or family member to read your comments can only add more heartache. The father is also suffering from hypothermia. I can't even imagine what they are going through. I am sure the father took all of this into account before he left shore. Let's pray for them and send our condolences to the family.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

Thanks for that, John.

John Counts

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

According to the Leelanau County Sheriff's Office, both were wearing life jackets. The water was 55 degrees at the time.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.

I'm so sad for this family. It's truly heartbreaking to read, and to imagine what the boy's parents are experiencing today. I hope that they'll find comfort from this community's support at this terrible time.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

What a horrible thing to have happened. As a father, stories like this touch me more than you know.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

Wow heartbreaking story. I am so very sorry for their loss.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 6:27 p.m.

I am curious what the distance was between the island and the state park. I'm also wondering if it is common practice to use a canoe to traverse this? This is a terrible thing and I am so sorry for the boy's family.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:39 p.m.

According to the Wikipedia its over 6 miles off shore. A six mile crossing in open water is a very serious undertaking.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

according to riverguy's link they were in the 55 degree water for 2 1/2 hours.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

Thank you Riiverguy, the articles all say the boy was a teenager, though this article says 8 years old. 55 degrees is very dangerous, especially after treading water for a couple of hours.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

This article says it's a 9 mile crossing.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.

I used spend time every summer in that area. Its a long canoe ride in open often choppy water. I would guess 6-8 miles. According to the story link the water was only 55 degrees.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 6:38 p.m.

It's a haul, DH Day off Sleeping Bear Dunes point to the North Island is at least 5-6 miles of open water.

Christine Stead

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

This is beyond heartbreaking. Please come together around this family when they return to Ann Arbor. Stay with them. Support them.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

How terribly sad. Thoughts are with the family right now.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

my heart grieves badly on this one. It hits home hard.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

So very sad. Condolences to the family.