Diver found in Lake Michigan, 13 years after going missing

Diver found in Lake Michigan 13 years after going missing… perfectly preserved and mummified by his own diving suit

  • Businessman Dirk Kann, 52, disappeared on a dive on September 4, 1999
  • The experienced diver was having trouble surfacing after a deep water exploration of the Lakeland shipwreck
  • U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement called off intensive search after only two days
  • More than a decade later, divers found his body some 200ft deep in Lake Michigan, still in his scuba gear

The body of a diver missing for more than a decade has been found in the cold waters of Lake Michigan with his diving suit still on.

Dirk Kann of Guttenberg, Iowa, disappeared in September 1999 after trying to explore a popular and extremely dangerous shipwreck, the legendary Lakeland, 225ft below the surface.

The 52-year-old’s remains were found in Whitefish Bay on Saturday, the Door County sheriff’s department confirmed.


Found: Dirk Kann of Guttenberg, Iowa, disappeared in September 1999 after trying to explore a popular shipwreck 225ft below the surface. He is pictured at right beside his daughter Susan


Tragedy: The 52-year-old’s remains were found in Whitefish Bay on Saturday near the Lakeland, pictured, an iron steamer loaded with new cars lost off Sturgeon Bay in 1924

He still had his diving gear on, in fact,’ Sheriff Terry Vogel said.

Sheriff Vogel said that two experienced divers found the remains while also exploring the wreck of a boat called the Lakeland.

Rose Kann, the wife of Mr Kann, spoke exclusively to the MailOnline about the news of her husband’s discovery.

She said that ‘of course’ the news was a great relief to the family, adding that they did not plan any memorial or service to commemorate Mr Kann.

Morose, she told the MailOnline that she’d ‘really rather not talk about it.’

Officials say Mr Kann disappeared while diving with friends on September 4, 1999 and was last seen by his dive partner, a 49-year-old man from nearby Appleton. 

Both Mr Kann and his partner were having trouble while surfacing from the bottom of the lake, the diver said at the time to the Door County Advocate.

The partner saw Mr Kann at the 80-foot mark on the dive line, where he was seen decompressing.  Divers decompress at various depths to prevent the buildup of harmful nitrogen bubbles in the blood.

Mr Kann’s partner proceeded to the 40-foot decompression mark and then to the surface, where he and a third diver, a 60-year-old man from Delafield, pulled on Mr Kann’s dive line.


Search: Two experienced divers found the remains while also exploring the wreck Lakeland

MysteryMystery: Mr Kann was a celebrated businessman and inventor before he disappeared

Bottles for decompression and emergency air, tied to the point in the line where Kann was last seen, were all that remained of him. All the divers were experienced scuba divers, but weather conditions made it near impossible to return for him.

The U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement mounted an exhaustive search of the area following his disappearance, but it was called off after two days.

‘There was a death investigation, I wouldn’t call it a homicide investigation,’ Sheriff Vogel said to the MailOnline. ‘There were no suspicious circumstances.’

The sheriff added that a few years ago, Mr Kann’s body was found by a local fisherman.

‘Six, seven years ago he was snagged by a fisherman, but he was released,’ he said. ‘Somehow they lost the snag. We did another search for the body but couldn’t find him.’

Sheriff Vogel said that each time, his office notifies the Kann family of the body’s appearance.

Mr Kann was a celebrated businessman and inventor before he passed.  He founded a recumbent bicycle company, Linear Mfg. in Iowa during the 1980s. 

He also ran Kann Mfg, which was founded by his father, which manufactures garbage trucks, marine boats and barges. His son and daughter both still work at the family company.

We made numerous attempts through the years to try to recover him with technological advancements,’ Sheriff Vogel said. ‘We used some of that to go down there, but his remains weren’t found until Saturday.’

Authorities say Mr Kann’s body was recovered near the wreck which sits about seven miles east of the Sturgeon Bay canal in more than 200ft of water.

It’s unique because the original cargo of early 20th century cars is still visible. That makes it a popular diving destination, but only for experienced divers.

‘That particular shipwreck is what we call a technical dive,’ explained diver and owner of Green Bay Scuba Alan Pahnke.

‘When it’s so deep, you need much more training to go down there than a normal sport diver would.’

Mr Pahnke told Fox 11 Online that the water temperature at that depth is around 2.2C (36F). He said the conditions would preserve a body for a long time.

‘Because of the pressure and the depth it’s at, there’s not a long of oxygen down there,’ Mr Pahnke said. ‘Plus the cold, it’s like a refrigerator, it’ll keep for quite a while.’

The sheriff’s department did not release the exact condition of the body.    

However, officials say the results from the autopsy helped to confirm the identity.


The Lakeland was a 2,425-ton iron steamer built by the Pittsburgh Steamship Company in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1887 as the Cambria.

She was renamed the Lakeland on May 24, 1910, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

On December 3, 1924, after departing Sturgeon Bay, she began taking on water and sank in 210 feet of water six miles east of the canal entrance with a cargo of Nash, Kissel, and Reynolds automobiles.

Today, she lies upright and largely intact with many of her automobiles intact in her hold.

Experienced divers flock to the wreck site to explore the vessel, though it is considered a highly technical and dangerous dive.

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