LOYAL – The loss is unimaginable. A young mother and the small, tight-knit community of Loyal are grieving the loss of three young children and their father after a family kayaking trip took a heartbreaking turn.
Cari Mews-Fryman and her family were kayaking on Lake Superior near Bayfield on Aug. 30 when their kayak overturned. Her husband, Eric Fryman, 39, and the couple’s three children — Annaliese, 9, Kyra, 5, and Jansen, 3 — died. Mews-Fryman, 29, was the lone survivor.
“That loss is just unthinkable,” said family friend Mary Laschen. “She has a very strong support system, but you never forget the loss of a child, and she just lost her husband and three kids. She needs everyone right now and going forward, because you learn to cope, but even time can’t completely heal you.”
Laschen is a retired special education teacher at the Loyal School District. She said there have been tragic children deaths in in her 30 years at Loyal, but nothing like this where an entire family was lost. Loyal is in Clark County, Wisconsin, and has a population of less than 1,300 people.
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The family was vacationing on Madeline Island and intended to paddle around the Apostle Islands when their boat capsized around 6 p.m., forcing the family to the water.
The weather began to change while the family was on the water, and waves grew to between thee and four feet high, according to police and media reports. Mews survived and was found on the west side of Michigan Island at about 10 p.m. She told police she became separated from her husband and children when they were trying to swim to Michigan Island, according to a news release from the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office.
Mews-Fryman was able to get back to the family’s emergency kit and use a cellphone to text her sister, Bobi, “911” “Michigan Island.” But the reception was bad and the message didn’t go through until hours later. Bobi Mews did call police who then began their search, and around 10 p.m. found Mews-Fryman.
Loyal is reeling, Mayor Dave Williams said. He is not personally acquainted with the family, he said, but knows relatives and friends of the Mews and Fryman families.
“We’re a close-knit community, where everybody pretty much knows everybody,” Williams said. “(People are in) utter disbelief. It’s a huge tragedy and your mind just can’t comprehend what happened, and how a family is literally destroyed.”
Laschen said she organizes a Tractors for Autism event each year in July with Mike Collins, who is a first-cousin of Mews-Fryman.
“Cari helped out a ton; that’s just who she is,” Laschen said. “She’s such a kind person. She was there with her kids. … You never think that something like this can happen.”
The Loyal School District said Tuesday in an email to USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin that it is offering extra counselors and professionals at its schools to assist students and staff.
“It is with deep sadness that the School District of Loyal reports that one of their families has met with tragedy,” the email said. “We have reached out to the family offering our condolences and support.”
Funeral services for the four family members will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Loyal High School, 514 W. Central St. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until the time of service.
People can donate to Mews-Fryman and the extended family through a fund at three Partners Bank locations: 201 W. Clark St., Spencer; 907 N. Central Ave., Marshfield; and 307 N. Weber Ave., Stratford. People can mail checks to any of the three branches as well, said a bank spokeswoman. Donors should write the checks to the “Fryman-Mews Benefit Account.”
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