US billionaire Douglas Tompkins dies in kayak accident in Chile

December 11
1:06 AM 2015

Adventure brand and Esprit owner and co-founder of the North Face outdoor company, Douglas Tompkins, died in a kayaking accident in Chile. He spent a large percentage of his wealth on environmental conservation.

According to Toronto Sun, the 72-year old, wealthy U.S. businessman has died in a kayaking accident in southern Chile by falling into the water. After the accident, he suffered from acute hypothermia and was immediately taken to an intensive care unit of a hospital in Coyhaique, a town 1,700 kilometers (1,056 miles) south of Santiago, where he died.

"He had lost consciousness and wasn't breathing" when brought to the hospital by helicopter, Dr. Carlos Salazar told local television stations.

The Aysen health service said  that he was a co-founder of the North Face outdoor company and contributed millions. He was also an environmental activist who purchased acres of land in South America's Patagonia region. 

The Chilean army said that three of the kayakers on General Carrera Lake were rescued by the military patrol boat and the remaining three were helped by a helicopter, as reported by BBC.

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

Mr. Tompkins built 2,900 sq km (1,120 sq miles) Pumalin Park on his Chilean land. He gave the park a more of a natural beauty by creating forest, lakes and fjords extending from the Andes to the Pacific. He had a deep concern for the local environmental issues in Chile and Argentina and for this purpose he raised a campaign of environmental awareness.

The Guardian mentioned the billionaire moved to the wilds of Patagonia, abandoned his lavish lifestyle and an estate in San Francisco in 1989. There he noticed the rapid ecology change while he spent months hiking, kayaking and exploring the southern rainforests.

After that, he took actions for ecology conservation by raising a campaign, initially in Chile then moving to Argentina. He joined forces with a group of environmental activists and took steps against people ruining pristine forests, wetlands, and coastal prairies.

His movement was continually opposed by the Chilean government and environmentally destructive industries including salmon farming and logging. But another self-made billionaire, Sebastián Pinéra and also a president of Chile from 2010 to 2014, stepped into Tompkins's footings. He purchased a large piece of Chile Island and transformed it into environmental conservation display.  

Tompkins was asked about his legacy in one of his final interviews for Paula, a Chilean magazine, "People will walk on these lands," he said. "Don't you think that's more beautiful than a tomb?"

He remained unconcerned about the huge opposition he was facing and remained steadfast to his intentions of transforming his land holdings into national parks.

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