NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Community News Network

July 18, 2013

Kayaker is 3rd 'dry drowning' in lake community this summer

LELAND, Mich. — The death of a kayaker in Lake Michigan this week was the third caused by "dry drowning" -- in which cold water closes off airways --  in the Grand Traverse region of northern Michigan this summer.

Robert J. Womac, 70, was kayaking with another man Tuesday when a large wave overtook them about 100 yards from shore, Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich told the Record-Eagle. He said a witness called 911 at about 4 p.m. and reported the kayak was upside-down and two victims were in the water.

Womac wasn't wearing a life preserver, but the other rider was, Borkovich said. The other rider told authorities the water was "glass calm" when they left from Womac's summer home, but winds soon whipped up 3-foot waves that capsized their kayak.

"It threw them about 20 feet from the boat when they went over," Borkovich said.

Medical Examiner Matthew Houghton said a postmortem exam performed Wednesday showed Womac’s likely cause of death was "laryngospastic dry drowning" — a reflex response triggered by exposure to cold water. Dry drowning victims show little or no water in their lungs.

"(They gulp) in water and it aggravates the epiglottis and closes off the breathing system," Houghton said.

Miles Percy Smith, 16, of Wyandotte, Mich., and Michael Anthony Michalski, 53, of Fife Lake, Mich., both died June 23 in separate incidents that were ruled dry drownings. Houghton said colder-than-normal water temperatures this summer explain the three dry drowning deaths: surface temperatures where Womac was found were 67 degrees.

"He was found in 11 feet of water," Houghton said. “The temperature drops about 1 degree a foot. Anything below 68 (degrees) can cause a laryngospasm."

---

Details for this story provided by the Traverse City (Mich.) Record-Eagle.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network

Offbeat
NDN Video
Crews rescue elderly woman trapped inside flooded minivan Taylor Swift Reveals New Album 1989 is Full-On Pop Serious Flash Flooding in Arizona Man Poses for New Mugshot Photo Wearing Shirt with Old Mugshot Photo On It Disquieting times for Malaysia's 'fish listeners' Caught On Camera: Johnny Manziel Obscene Gesture Rita Ora Embraces the Ice Bucket Challenge Bird surprises soccer player Ashley Young during game Chapter Two: Never too late to become an artist Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Viral, Raises Over $15M For ALS Damaging Winds Stop the Show! In the Cockpit of the Air Force's Elite Squadron Pathologist: Autopsy Shows Teen Repeatedly Shot Christina Aguilera Has a Baby Girl Marvel Fans: Watch Dancing Baby Groot Over and Over! Raw: Protesters, Police Clash in Ferguson Gov. Rick Perry responds to indictment Breaking: Officials release name of police officer in Ferguson shooting Man Shot As Protesters Defy Curfew in Ferguson Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez Back Together for Two ‘Secret’ Dates
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans