Kayak angler Brent King lost his life on the Susquehanna River, prompting an outpouring of support for his family. Photo: GoFundMe/Brent King ~ Memorial Fund

Kayaker from MD Dies While Kayak Fishing on Susquehanna River

A Frederick County, Md., man has died after he disappeared while kayak fishing in the Susquehanna River on Feb. 16. His body was found near City Island outside Harrisburg, Penn.

While it’s not clear exactly what went wrong that day, the paddler’s wife and children have received an outpouring of support from the community since his loss.

According to his family, Brent King texted his wife Caley as he launched his kayak and fishing equipment the morning of Friday, Feb. 16, but by lunchtime, she couldn’t reach him. When a friend tracked his cell phone to its location in the water, his kayak was found unmanned. Friends and family walked the riverbeds looking for him. A helicopter and drone search by police and Harrisburg River Rescue and Emergency Services volunteer rescue crews stretched throughout that weekend.

Finally on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 18, family friends say a volunteer with a drone was able to find King’s body in the water.

A GoFundMe page set up by someone who identifies herself as Caley’s best friend, Tracy, has gained serious traction. As of Feb. 23, donations were up to nearly $59,000, far exceeding the page’s initial goal of $10,000. According to the page, donations will go towards Caley, the Kings’ six-year-old son, and Caley’s 12-year-old daughter. This is Caley’s second time losing a husband, as her first husband died when her daughter was just six months old.

Caley said Feb. 16 was King’s day off work and he was excited to catch some fish. He was wearing an inflatable life jacket that wasn’t inflated when his body was found, local reports attribute to the Dauphin County Coroner’s Office. His cause of death was accidental freshwater drowning, the Daily Voice reported.

The same weekend that King perished in the water, the Chesapeake Paddlers Association was holding a cold water training session. Chesapeake Bay Magazine reported on the training event that allowed paddlers to test their on-water winter safety gear in a controlled swim test.

As the Paddlers Association pointed out then, the margins of error are very slim in cold water and “a minor issue, mistake or oversight can snowball into a major dangerous issue.”

It’s not known whether King’s inflatable PFD was intact and working, but Chesapeake Paddlers Association says, “We recommend not using hybrid or inflatable PFDs in cold water and using standard ones. Inflatable mechanisms can possibly fail with cold temps or freezing water, and most require the user to be able to activate them to inflate, which if a paddler ends up in the water, if because of a medical issue or impact, they may not be able to do so.”

The Paddlers Association goes on to note that it may be difficult for a capsized paddler to inflate their PFD in cold water, as hyperventilating, losing hand dexterity and the cold water gasp reflex are all working against the paddler.