Nathaniel Scott Barnett drowned in the river at Hewlett Road near Poughkeepsie June 7. Barnett graduated from Cave City High School last month.
According to Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver, Barnett and several friends went swimming at the popular swimming hole Saturday evening. The boys spent a great amount of time swimming from a rock on one side of the river to a swing on the other side, Weaver said.
The boys noticed Barnett missing late that evening. Barnett's friends said they swam to the swing while Barnett stayed near the rock and swam on his back, Weaver said. When the boys turned around to swim back to the rock, they noticed Barnett wasn't around, he said.
Weaver said the boys originally thought their friend was playing a joke on them, but after calling and searching for Barnett for some time, they then realized it wasn't a joke and called authorities.
Poughkeepsie, Cave City, Center, Williford, Hardy and Cherokee Village fire department's water rescue units responded to the scene to search for Barnett along with county deputies and other emergency personnel.
"They had a lot of help out there," Weaver said. "These volunteer fire departments just go the second mile when it comes to finding and helping when it comes to someone missing."
Weaver said community residents also brought food and drinks out for the rescue personnel.
Rescue personnel searched the area for hours after the sun set, but eventually called off the search due to lack of light and low visibility in the water. The search resumed after daylight Sunday morning.
A cadaver dog and handler from Linn volunteered their services and helped in the search. Baxter County brought their helicopter to the area Sunday morning to aid in the search.
"Sometimes you can see things from up there in the water that you couldn't see otherwise," Weaver said.
Water rescue personnel found Barnett's body around 10:15 a.m. Sunday morning. The body was located just a few feet from where he was last seen. He was about 30 feet from the rock the boys had been swimming from and was in about 6-to-8 feet of water, Weaver said.
Weaver said he is unsure whether or not Barnett was a strong swimmer, but does know he was a diabetic. Weaver said Barnett's mother said her son had been having problems with low blood sugar lately when he would participate in strenuous activity.
"We don't know for sure, but it's probably a good guess that that's what happened," he said.
Weaver said Strawberry River is a narrow river but the location near Hewlett Road is one of the widest sections of the river. He said Barnett could have tired while swimming back and forth across the river.
"It just breaks your heart seeing something like this happen," he said. "He was a young man just getting started."