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North Face Founder Douglas Tompkins Dies in Kayak Accident in Chile

First Posted: Dec 09, 2015 12:29 PM EST
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Photo : thenorthface/Instagram

The millionaire co-founder of The North Face and Esprit clothing brands, Douglas Tompkins, who used his fortune to try to preserve South American ecosystems died Tuesday during a kayak accident in Chile.

Tompkins fell into near-freezing waters and was taken with acute hypothermia to a hospital in Coyhaique, in the country's Aysén region located more than 1,000 miles south of Santiago, The New York Times reported. High winds had apparently flipped the 72-year-old's adventure kayak during a trip across Lake General Carrera in Patagonia.

A military patrol boat rescued three other sportsmen who had traveled with Tompkins, and no one else was seriously injured,

Thompkins "had lost consciousness and wasn't breathing" when he arrived at the hospital, Dr. Carlos Salazar told local television stations, according to The Associated Press

"Doug was a passionate advocate for the environment," the North Face said in a statement. "His legacy of conservation will help ensure that there are outdoor spaces to be explored for generations to come."

Thompkins was an experienced outdoorsman who had taken to shun the business world to pursue his passion for nature and conservationism, The New York Times noted.

"He flew airplanes, he climbed to the top of mountains all over the world," his daughter Summer Tompkins Walker recalled. "To have lost his life in a lake and have nature just sort of gobble him up is just shocking."

For the past 25 years, the Ohio native had resided in Chile. He owned vast swaths of land in the South American country and its neighbor, Argentina, and ended up donating more than 3 square miles of territory that were subsequently turned into parks and nature reserves.

"For the environmental movement, not just in Chile but internationally, (Tompkins' death) is a huge loss," Sara Larrain, a long-time friend of Tompkins who leads a Chilean environmental group, told the AP "This is somebody who put all his energy, all his fortune and his spirit in preserving ecosystems."

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