PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) — The body of a country singer was recovered Monday at an Oklahoma lake, one week after he disappeared while going duck hunting with a companion who had sent an ominous tweet about threatening weather.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Craig M. Strickland, 29, of Springdale, Arkansas, had died at Kaw Lake, near the Kansas-Oklahoma state line. The body of his hunting partner, Chase Morland, 22, of Van Buren, Arkansas, was recovered Dec. 28.
Strickland was the lead singer of Arkansas-based country-rock band Backroad Anthem, which said Monday that it appeared Strickland was able to drag himself out of the water before dying.
“Today we lost our brother, our best friend, our bandmate,” the band said in a statement released by its publicist, Jensen Sussman of Nashville, Tennessee, to The Associated Press. “Thankful to know he fought his way from the water to a hill and was lying in the shape of a cross on his back looking up to his Heavenly Father …”
“Today he is smiling down on us and we know he will always be with us. He will always be here to help guide us along the way. We love you Craig Strickland and we will forever miss you!” the statement said.
A tweet from Morland ahead of the hunt suggested they knew the danger: “In case we don’t come back, @BackroadCRAIG and I are going right through (the storm) to kill ducks in Oklahoma. #IntoTheStorm.”
A strong weather system whipped Oklahoma with high winds during the Christmas weekend, with blizzard conditions in the west and strong thunderstorms and heavy rains to the east. The pair’s boat was found Dec. 27, the same day the two disappeared. Before Strickland’s body was recovered, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management had said six people had died in the severe weather around Christmas.
Kay County Sheriff Everette VanHoesen said last week that inexperienced boaters can be surprised by worsening conditions on the 38-mile-long lake.
“It’s a big lake, and when we have high winds, the lake will get whitecapped; the waves get pretty big,” VanHoesen said last week.
Strickland was married to former Miss Arkansas Helen Wisner.