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Cruise Passenger Dies In Alaska Kayaking Accident

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Jul 17, 2012 04:15 PM EDT

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Daniel Alvarez (not pictured) went on a 4,000 mile kayak journey across the U.S.(Photo : Wikimedia)

A cruise ship passenger died while on a kayaking excursion in Alaska this past weekend.

Michael Ray Fullerton, 62, a passenger on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas was on a kayaking adventure on Mendenhall Lake  with three of his family members when his kayak overturned on Sunday. The family had rented the kayaks to use on the lake near Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.

A family member said that Fullerton got tired during the excursion and couldn't paddle anymore, so the group tied the kayaks together. Fullerton's kayak somehow overturned, throwing him into the he cold water lake, which sees average temperature of average 37 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, according to Cruise Critic.

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The family got the attention of a canoeist who helped bring them all back to the beach. Officials were told that Fullerton was in the water for close to 30 minutes. He had already stopped breathing when he was brought to the shore. A fireman from Juneau's Capital City Fire and Rescue tried to resuscitate Fullerton through CPR, but he was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Bartlett Regional Hospital

"The other remaining people were treated for mild hypothermia, transported to the hospital and just kind of everybody met up at the hospital where the family was treated and released," fire chief Rich Etheridge told radio station KTOO News.

The family has rented tandem kayaks and gear from Alaska Boat and Kayak in Auke Bay, according to KTOO News. Own Sean Janes said that the group did not have a guide but they were all given a safety lesson before taking the kayaks to the lake.

"They get questioned about how much paddle experience they've had, and then they get a thorough safety briefing that talks about self-rescue, using the bilge pump, paddle float, wearing the PFD and spray skirt, and how to work together and paddle as a group," he said.

The group was given specific instructions on how to paddle around the glacier filled lake. Janes explained how to stay at least 200 yards away from glaciers and icebergs. He also showed them a map of icebergs and hazards along the lake.

Janes explained that tandem kayaks are usually stable and aren't easy to tip over. There is no word on how Fullerton's kayak overturned.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center director Ron Marvin explained to that safety is very important when it comes to kayaking in Mendenhall Lake.

"When I think about people kayaking on the lake I think it is a wonderful activity to do, but you really should be familiar with using a kayak," Marvin said. "Because if you turn over in this cold water your ability to swim to shore or be rescued is very limited. I always tell people to be familiar with how to rescue yourself in a kayak and make sure everybody is somewhat skilled in kayaking before you go out here, because of the cold water."

The Forest Service is leading the investigation of the incident. 



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