By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota family is turning personal tragedy into a cause for positive change.

David Schink is presumed to have died over the weekend while kayaking in Florida. He was 61. Judy Schink is his wife.

“I thought, ‘He’ll be here any minute, he’ll be here any minute,’” Judy said.

The Champlin couple was vacationing in Destin. They had a sunset stroll on the beach planned for when David, an experienced kayaker, got back — but he didn’t return.

“It was downright scary,” Judy said. “There’s nothing to describe it. Your stomach is in a gut-wrenching knot.”

The United States Coast Guard searched 9,000 nautical square miles over 50 hours before calling it off for rough conditions. They found the kayak and half a paddle, but not David. Tom Schink is his son.

“You’re always hoping for good news, and we never got it,” Tom said.

He will remember his dad as always being quick with a joke, and someone who passed on life’s lessons.

“He was always there for you, so you really couldn’t have asked for a better father,” Tom said.

David Schink (credit: Judy Schink)

The Schinks are now raising money for a number of water safety initiatives, including beachfront surveillance cameras and better signage. They would also like to create an AMBER Alert-like system specifically for water emergencies, called Aqua Alert.

“The local boats in the area, those guys’ phones will light up, and if they’re out on the water they can go to that area and start looking right away,” Judy said.

The Schinks are working with the Coast Guard on it, where officials say better coordination between agencies, and the public, would help in their searches for missing boaters. Paul Barnard is a recreational boating safety program manager with the Coast Guard.

“I admire their courage,” Barnard said. “It does take a lot of courage to take a terrible personal tragedy like this and try to turn it into some kind of a triumph.”

Judy says their family is leaning on their faith, and it’s a great comfort knowing God has David now. She’s enthusiastic about the Aqua Alert idea.

“This family will do everything possible to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else,” Judy said.

Click here to donate to the Schinks’ cause.

David Schuman