Rule 2 / Case 5

Always Dress For The Water Temperature


Mark J. Tamkus March 17th, 2011 - Millsite Lake, Redwood, New York



Mark J. Tamkus, 62, of 42607 Camp Tousey Rd., in Redwood, NY, was found under his capsized kayak at 3:00 p.m. by the Jefferson County Special Tactics and Rescue team after his family had reported him missing earlier in the day.

The kayak was found floating upside down in a small area of open water in front of his lakeside home. Millsite Lake was still mostly ice-covered, and the water temperature at the time of capsize was 32F. Mr. Tamkus, who was not wearing a sprayskirt, drowned before he was even able to exit the kayak.

Following an autopsy conducted that evening at Samaritan Medical Center in nearby Watertown, Jefferson County medical examiner Dr. Samuel A. Livingstone, ruled that he died of asphyxia due to cold-water drowning.

Mr. Tamkus was a part-time veterans benefit counselor and advocate at the Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Watertown. Millsite Lake is located in the Jefferson County town of Redwood, about 90 miles north of Syracuse, NY.

Case Note:

This incident is an excellent example of what happens when cold shock causes a person to gasp while under water: they immediately drown, often before they’re even able to exit the kayak.


Major Contributing Factors


  • Not Dressed For Water Temperature

  • Unable To Recover From Capsize

  • Unable to Call For Help

  • Unaware of Hazards

  • Paddling Solo