Park Operator Dies During Search
The search for two canoeists floating the Little Niangua River near the Missouri Department of Conservation Access at Fiery Fork 50 miles northeast of Springfield ended in tragedy when the campground operator who had gone looking for them died of a fatal heart attack.
His wife reported he had left around 7 p.m. Sunday evening. His body was found around 1:30 a.m on Monday.
The victim’s wife had called the Camden County Sheriff’s Department to report that her husband had not returned after going to look for two canoeists, according to the Lake Sun Leader, Camdenton. Mo.
According to deputies, John R. Gruender, 60, of Macks Creek was found lying unconscious next to his van with a flashlight still burning. The van had apparently gotten stuck in the gravel near the boat ramp. The report indicated it looked like the victim has been trying to get the van unstuck when he collapsed.
The canoeists had missed their take-out point and Gruender had apparently gone to the conservation area to see if they were at the boat ramp.
Gruender had a history of heart problems, according to the information provided by his wife to the sheriff’s department.
Fiery Fork is located off Route 7 in western Camden County.
The two canoeists were located early Monday on the river by the Missouri Water Patrol. The two had apparently gotten confused on where their take-out point was and ended up floating past it.