Waukesha County Nemahbin Lake search, kayaker's body recovered

Waukesha County crews recovered the body of a missing kayaker Thursday morning, Aug. 3 after three days of searches.

Investigators said the man was not wearing a life jacket, and more may have contributed to his drowning in Lower Nemahbin Lake; a friend of the victim told investigators the man couldn’t swim.

Stacy Adamek and her husband drive an hour from their Racine home just to kayak on Lower Nemahbin Lake. While she says it is peaceful, she knows it can also be deadly.

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"I’m not comfortable on the water," she said. "I can’t swim – I’m afraid of water."

On Tuesday night, someone called 911 from the shore after seeing a kayak flip over. The Western Lakes Fire District said two children and a man in his 50s were on board.

Lower Lake Nemahbin search, recovery efforts in Waukesha County

"The children were wearing life jackets and were able to grab onto the kayak and call for help," said Western Lakes Fire Chief Brad Bowen. "The adult male did not have a life jacket on and never returned to the surface."

Fifty people from multiple agencies searched for the man Tuesday night using drones, dive teams and sonar.

"When we have the heavily weeded areas, our sonar can’t penetrate the thick weed beds," said Lt. Drew Starch with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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Efforts turned into a recovery mission. Crews returned and searched all day Wednesday. The body was finally found early Thursday morning, around 7:30 a.m.

"Lower Nemahbin Lake has maximum depths of 36 feet. The primary search area – the last known location of the individual was between 5 feet and 23 feet," Bowen said.

Bowen said the last boat-related drowning deaths in his jurisdiction were last year when two men drowned in three days in Lac la Belle. Neither man was wearing a life jacket.

"Wearing a life jacket does save lives," said Starch. "More than 90% of fatalities related to drowning incidents involve the victim not wearing a life jacket."

Adamek said she never leaves the shore without one: "I just want to be on the water – but not in it."

Police said the two children who were with the man are not related to him. Investigators said the children were not hurt.

Alcohol was not a factor.

Police are not releasing the name of the victim, because they haven’t been able to locate family.