It’s an adage that duck hunters know very well: always check the weather. Winter Storm Goliath rampaged across the United States in late 2015, driving snow and ice across the country from the West Coast into New England. At least 19 people died as a result of the storm, and among them was country music singer Craig Strickland, the 29-year-old vocalist for Backroad Anthem.
Late last month, Strickland went on a much-anticipated duck hunting trip to Oklahoma’s Kaw Lake with friend Chase Morland. The pair was reported missing on December 27 when they lost contact with family. Their bodies were found on Monday.
“Today we lost our brother, our best friend, our bandmate,” read a statement on Backroad Anthem’s Facebook page. “Craig was the most amazing person whose passion for life couldn’t be matched. 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.”
According to KTLA, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol found the hunters near their boat earlier this week. It appears that sometime during the storm—which included sleet, snow, high winds, and freezing tempratures—the boat had capsized and tossed both hunters into the lake. Morland drowned and Strickland managed to swim back to land, where he succumbed to hypothermia.
His wife, Helen, said she found solace in the fact that he likely felt no pain in his passing.
“The night of the accident he had fought his way out of the water and up a hill before the stages of hypothermia set in. He experienced no pain in his final moments and simply felt like he was falling asleep,” she wrote on Twitter.
Many other hunters were also affected by the winter weather, including some who found themselves trapped outdoors. In a spot of good news, a teen hunter in Utah managed to escape the same fate that befell the country singer. Fourteen-year-old Brayden Neilson is now at home recovering from hypothermia and frostbite after getting separated from his hunting party in Ogden Bay last week. According to Fox 13, at one point the teen seemed to be hallucinating due to the cold. Neilson was found by search crews seven miles from where he lost contact with fellow hunters.
A haunting tweet from Morland suggested that he and Strickland also expected similar conditions in Oklahoma.
“In case we don’t come back, @BackroadCRAIG and I are going right through Winter Storm Goliath to kill ducks in Oklahoma. #IntoTheStorm,” he wrote on Twitter the day before he and Strickland went missing.
— Chase Morland (@ChaseMorland) December 27, 2015
Officials said Strickland’s dog, which accompanied the hunters on their trip, survived.