North Face Inc. founder and noted conservationist Douglas Tompkins died at 72 following a kayaking accident in his adopted country of Chile.
Tompkins died from hypothermia after falling into the freezing waters of General Carrera lake amid high winds, the regional government’s health department said in a statement. His body temperature had fallen to 19 degree Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit) by the time the Chilean navy brought him to the hospital in Coyhaique.
"We are all deeply saddened by the news of Doug Tompkins’ passing. Doug was special to many of us," The North Face said in a statement. "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 everyday".
In addition to outdoor gear-maker North Face, Tompkins started fashion company Esprit Holdings Ltd. in the 1960s. He sold both companies and used the proceeds to acquire hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Chile and neighboring Argentina for preservation. He and his wife Kristine developed Pumalin Park, a 715,000-acre site created to protect a swath of Patagonia.
The Tompkins’ Pumalin Foundation was a key member of the Council for the Defense of Patagonia, a group of more than thirty organizations that successfully fought the construction of HidroAysen, a power project that would have flooded 14,000 acres of Patagonia wilderness.
Yvon Chouinar, the founder of the Patagonia retail chain, and four others ware kayaking with Tompkins when the accident occurred, the navy said in a statement.