Four southwest Missouri residents died in a boating accident on the Niangua River in the Lead Mine Conservation area.

The State Highway Patrol reports a Dallas County Conservation agent responded to cries for help up river and found 68-year-old David L. Dixon of Fair Grove clinging to a capsized john boat. Though flown to a Springfield hospital by helicopter, Dixon died later. Investigators found, 43-year-old Hubert “Eugene” Highfill and his 11-year-old son, Jesse, dead at the scene. 62-year-old Doyle “Pete” Cowin apparently died responding to the accident. Investigators found Cowin’s boots on the riverbank.

According to the patrol, the conservation agent heard cries for help late Friday night, around 10:30pm. Authorities believe that Dixon might have been in the water for up to an hour. He was suffering from severe hypothermia when he was rescued. He was pronounced dead at St. John’s Hospital at about 2am Saturday. The Dallas County coroner pronounced the other three dead at the scene. All were found in 10 to 15 feet of cold, still water.

A spokesman for the Highway Patrol estimates the temperature of the water to be in the 30s. He says it might have played a role in the drownings. Investigators say there is no evidence alcohol played a role in the deaths.

The three had apparently gone on a fish gigging trip and had planned to return home that evening. Their campfire was still warm and there was evidence that earlier they had cleaned and eaten fish.