Two Joplin Men Drown After Falling Through Ice While Fishing at Southeast Kansas Strip Pits

Joplin News First

"The initial investigation indicates both men fell through ice and drowned," Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves stated in a media release.

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Kan. — Two Joplin men on a short fishing trip to SE Kansas Tuesday didn’t return to Joplin by the expected time in the evening, so families became concerned.

Family members headed to SE Kansas about 10:00 PM late Tuesday to search on their own. They hadn’t talked to them during the day, cell service is limited in that area. The only information they had was the men ‘were going to fish near Big Brutus at the strip pits’.

Not able to locate them on their own, around midnight family reached out to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office for help, who then quickly pinged phones to determine location.

Around 1:00 AM early Wednesday morning, a Cherokee County Deputy Sheriff located the vehicle they had been in at Mined Wildlife Land #40, northwest of Columbus, near Northwest 70th and StarValley Road.

CHEROKEE COUNTY KANSAS SHERIFF

Not far from the vehicle the Sheriff’s Office recovered the bodies of both men from the water. No foul play is suspected in the deaths of Robert Sleep, 70, and Stephen LeMasters, 71, both of Joplin.

“The initial investigation indicates both men fell through ice and drowned,” Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves stated in a media release.

Both were transported to Kansas City for autopsy.

We will update this story with more information as received by authorities.

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