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20-year-old from New London drowns in Missouri

NEW LONDON — A 20-year-old college student from rural New London, who was known for his big smile and involvement in local high school arts and athletics, drowned over the weekend in Missouri.

Jeremy Hinkemeyer died Saturday after he jumped into the Gasconade River while camping with friends at the Wilbur Allen Conservation Area in Wright County, which is in south central Missouri.

The campground is about 70 miles south of Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo., where Hinkemeyer was a student.

In a telephone interview Monday, Wright County Sheriff Glenn Adler said Hinkemeyer had been hunting, fishing and hiking with college buddies and apparently jumped off a rock into a deep pool in the narrow river.

“One of his friends heard him yell and he went underneath the water,” said Adler, who characterized the 50-foot-wide river as more of a creek.

But he said the area where Hinkemeyer jumped in was about 15 feet deep.

When Hinkemeyer didn’t resurface, his friends pushed a log into the river and tried to find him with their feet and hands.

Adler said one of the young men in the group ran up the road to a boat access and found someone who had a cell phone so that authorities could be notified.

Rescue personnel got the call around 3:25 p.m. Saturday.

Besides the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the Missouri State Patrol’s water division, the Missouri Department of Conservation and fire departments from Mountain Grove and Northern Wright County were at the scene, Adler said five or six fishermen also helped search for Hinkemeyer.

He said it’s “gigging” season in Missouri and fishermen with flat-bottomed boats equipped with bright lights for night-time fishing went up and down the river to assist with the search.

Adler said Hinkemeyer’s body was found about 9:30 p.m.

The Wright County coroner pronounced Hinkemeyer dead at the scene Saturday night.

“Something happened to him,” said Adler, adding that the coroner found no visible signs of trauma and it’s not believed Hinkemeyer struck his head while jumping into the river.

He also said alcohol does not appear to have been a factor.

Adler speculates that the drowning may have been related to a medical condition. He said the boys had been hiking and perhaps Hinkemeyer was overheated before he jumped into the water and got a muscle cramp.

On top of the difficulty with the search, Adler said Hinkemeyer’s 18-year-old sister, Lindsay, arrived on the scene shortly after her brother disappeared.

He said Lindsay goes to college in Springfield, Mo., and had been planning to join her brother and his friends camping.

“It was really hard on her,” said Adler. “It’s a sad, sad deal that happened. Prayers for the family.”

Adler said his office contacted officials with the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office in Willmar, who — along with a chaplain — informed the Hinkemeyer family of the accident.

Hinkemeyer was home-schooled by his parents, Brian and Linda Hinkemeyer, at their rural New London farm home.

The oldest of five children, Hinkemeyer participated in programs in the New London-Spicer School District, including theater and baseball, through 2011.

“He was a wonderful young man,” said NLS Superintendent Paul Carlson. “He was so talented and so respectful of everybody. He always had a smile on his face.”

Carlson received the news Sunday night and had the task of informing staff, students and coaches at NLS who not only knew Hinkemeyer, but also know his younger siblings who also are home schooled but currently participate in NLS activities.

“A lot of kids knew him and thought he was a great guy,” said Carlson. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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