Douglas Tompkins, co-founder of North Face and Esprit, dies in kayaking accident

Douglas Tompkins.
(Image credit: Facebook.com/TheNorthFace)

Douglas Tompkins, conservationist and co-founder of The North Face and Esprit brands, died Tuesday after a kayaking accident in Chile. He was 72.

Local media reports say that Tompkins and five others were paddling on General Carrera Lake in the Patagonia region when their kayaks capsized. The water was below 39 degrees Fahrenheit, and Tompkins was confirmed dead at the Coyhaique Regional Hospital; the Health Ministry says his body temperature was just 66 degrees. None of the other kayakers were hurt.

Tompkins founded The North Face in 1966 as a small ski and backpacking retail and mail order company, and launched the clothing and accessories line Esprit in 1968, along with his wife, Susie. After Tompkins retired in 1989, he became involved in conservation and created Pumalin Park, 716,606 acres of forest and lakes stretching from the Andes to the Pacific in Chile, NBC News reports. In a statement, The North Face called Tompkins a "passionate advocate for the environment" and said his "legacy of conservation is one that we hope to help continue in the work we do every day."

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