A training paddle to Anvil Island and back by a group of adventure racers turned to tragedy on Sunday, when two of four two-person kayaks were capsized by two-metre swells and winds gusting over 80 km/h.
Denis Fontaine, 40, and Richard Juryn, 50, both of North Vancouver, became hypothermic in the water and died Sunday evening in hospital.
The boats were heading back to Porteau Cove around the south end of Anvil Island when the boat carrying Fontaine and his common-law wife Cheryl Beatty flipped over. One boat paddled after Beatty, who was drifting away from the overturned kayak, while the other two boats stayed with Fontaine. Eventually Fontaine climbed into the centre hatch of one of the kayaks to paddle with them to Porteau Cove. That boat, which had Juryn and Graham Tutti aboard, also capsized, dropping the three men into the water.
The last boat decided they couldn’t help the three men, and made a decision to head to Porteau Cove to get help. All of the paddlers wore life jackets, but did not have wetsuits to protect against the frigid waters. Bob Faulkner, who was on the boat that headed to Porteau Cove, believed the three men would attempt to swim back to the island.
Meanwhile the other boat succeeded in rescuing Beatty. She was towed back upwind to Anvil Island, where her rescuers performed CPR. Beatty was hypothermic at that point.
A coast guard hovercraft and two helicopters attended the emergency call, where they found Fontaine and Juryn floating face down in the water. Tutti, the third man who was in the water, was pulled out alive after an hour in the water.
Tutti, Beatty, Fontaine and Juryn were airlifted to the hospital. Attempts were made to revive Fontaine and Juryn at the hospital, but they were declared dead at 5 p.m.
Their deaths came as a blow to the family and friends of the adventurers, both of whom were well-known in the Whistler community.
Fontaine lived in Deep Cove but was frequently in Whistler as a representative for Helly Hansen. Juryn, a married father of two, lived on the North Shore where he was an effective advocate for mountain biking through the years. He was also active in organizing events in Whistler through his company, Shore Events.
Grant Lamont knew both men and was shocked by the tragedy.
“It’s been a pretty bad weekend for everybody. Denis was a really good buddy, a really great guy, and he should be sitting here right now having a beer and telling stories,” said Lamont.