Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face, dies in kayaking accident

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Doug Tompkins, 72, founded The North Face in 1966. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Doug Tompkins, 72, founded The North Face in 1966. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face, died Tuesday after a kayaking accident in Chile.

Tompkins, 72, reportedly suffered from extreme hypothermia when his kayak capsized on Lake General Carrera, in Chile’s Patagonia region.

Tompkins was one of six kayakers who capsized on the lake. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and mountaineer Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia's vice president of environmental affairs, were among those rescued. Everyone was in good condition, according to Fox News Latino.

In a news release published on its website, the Chilean navy identified the other kayakers who were out with Tompkins as Weston Boyles and Jim Ellison of the United States, and Lorenzo Alvarez of Mexico.

According to the release, the local naval authority received a phone call at 11:10 a.m. alerting them that a group of six foreign kayakers were drifting near the Avellano area of the lake and needed rescue. The navy dispatched a patrol boat to the area, while coordinating support from a local air ambulance company and a ferry, La Tehuelche. The kayakers also arranged for a private helicopter from Lodge Terraluna, a tour company in nearby Chile Chico.

The rescued kayakers "indicated they had flipped due to the prevailing weather conditions in the area, produced by high wind and the surf at the moment of the accident," the Navy said.

Tompkins was "a force for nature" and well-known as "one of the Earth's foremost conservationists," according to a press release from Tompkins Conservation. He and his wife, Kristine, acquired more than 2 million acres of land for conservation through charitable organizations they founded. They helped create five South American national parks and were working to establish several more.

"At his core an activist for nature and beauty, Tompkins possessed an incredible love for the wild world he explored in climbing and paddling trips," Tompkins Conservation wrote, adding that its founder had been "cheating death" for years during dangerous climbing expeditions to some of the most remote places in the world.

In addition to founding The North Face, Tompkins co-founded the Esprit clothing company with Susie Tompkins, his first wife. The brand called him "a great man and a visionary" in a Facebook post, and wrote that it deeply appreciated his respect and passion for the planet.

The North Face also expressed its sadness upon hearing of Tompkins’ death in a post on Facebook.

“Doug was special to many of us,” the company wrote. “He was a passionate advocate for the environment, and his legacy of conservation is one that we hope to help continue in the work we do every day. … He will be missed.”

Check back at SNEWS for more information as this story develops. 

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