Austin kayakers rescued after hours adrift on Green Bay

A Coast Guard Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Traverse City, Mich., prepares to rescue three kayakers from Whaleback Shoal in Green Bay, July 11, 2014. The U.S. Coast Guard, along with the Royal Canadian Air Force and several local agencies assisted in the search and rescue of three kayakers reported missing on July 10, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Royal Canadian Air Force)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (AP/KXAN) — An Austin woman, her son and another boy were rescued by a U. S. Coast Guard helicopter after spending the night adrift in their kayaks on the waters of Green Bay, officials said Friday.

The three were plucked by the helicopter crew from the Michigan waters off the western tip of the Door County peninsula shortly after daybreak Friday, about 15 hours after they were reported missing, according to the Coast Guard.

Door County sheriff’s officials identified the three as Allison Alter, 43, her son, Zach Suri, 9, of Austin, and Thomas Alter, 9, of Highland Park, Illinois, a relative. They were treated for mild hypothermia at Bay Area Medical Center. Hospital spokesman John Hofer said the woman and boys were later released.

The trio went missing after launching their two kayaks from Nicolet Bay in Peninsula State Park about 3 p.m. Thursday. The three planned to paddle to Eagle Harbor in Ephraim, sheriff’s officials said. The kayak rental company called authorities when they did not return.

Eight law enforcement agencies, including the Coast Guard, searched into the night for the three.

“We had six or seven boats out until 10:30 p.m.,” said Lt. Jeff Farley of the Door County Sheriff’s Department. “We pulled them because it was so dark you couldn’t see anything. But the U.S. Coast Guard continued, searching with two vessels and two helicopters.”

As the search continued, Allison’s husband, Jeremi Suri, and daughter Natalie, could only wait.

The three were spotted by a C-130 search plane from Canada about 10 miles from Chambers Island in Michigan waters about 6 a.m. Friday. They were located about 14 miles from where they launched their kayaks Thursday afternoon, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Tyler Goss. A Coast Guard helicopter crew hoisted the woman and boys from their kayaks into the chopper.

Staying in their kayaks was a smart move, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Stanley Rittner.

“Any time you’re out on a boat or kayak, you always stay with the boat,” Rittner said. “As soon as you get in the water you get cold.”

Rittner said the wind Thursday generated waves of 1 to 2 feet in Green Bay.

“People go out not realizing how fast conditions can change in the big water,” said Door County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Farley. Allison Alter had tethered her kayak to the boys’ kayak, Farley said.

Back in Austin, friends and neighbors were relieved to hear the good news.

“They’re really sweet,” said Mark Rogers. “They invited us over to watch the Packers in the Super Bowl and it was a blast. We had them over recently for my daughter’s graduation. They’re really nice people, sweet kids.”

Allison and the family not only loved outdoor activities, but she has been spearheading a fundraising drive to help perk up nearby Ramsey Park in Central Austin. She thought kids should have a great place to play.

“I’m really glad they are OK,” Rogers said. “I knew they were into biking and hiking so in a way it’s not a surprise. It’s always shocking to hear of something like that happening to someone you know.”

Jeremi Suri is a history professor at the University of Texas and Allison does philanthropic work through her consulting firm.

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