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Millikin University student dies after near drowning in Missouri

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SAINT LOUIS — A Millikin University student has died a little more than a week after he was rescued from the water at Fugitive Beach near Rolla, Mo.

David K. Jackson, 19, was taken to Mercy Hospital St. Louis in Creve Coeur after what authorities termed a near-drowning on Aug. 8 at Fugitive Beach, an old quarry turned into a swimming attraction about 100 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Rescuers performed CPR on Jackson and recovered a pulse before he was taken to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead Thursday.

Jackson and his twin brother, Daniel, played football together in their first year at Millikin, where Jackson played wide receiver and had planned to study engineering.

“David was a unique student-athlete,” Dan Gritti, Jackson's coach at Millikin, said. “He had a commanding presence, and all eyes would come to him. He had a personality that people were drawn to, and was a true leader in that sense.”

Gritti said that the Millikin football program will honor Jackson during the upcoming season, but as of now, they are still coming to terms with losing who he called “valuable member of the team.”

“I very much feel lucky to have known him. I’m lucky to have coached him, and I will truly miss him," he said. "We ask that everyone send their prayers and strength toward his brother Daniel and entire Jackson family."

The twins were inseparable, Jackson's former coach Gary Kornfeld said.

"They were the best of buds," he said. "They were really tight. They really cared for one another and they shared a lot of great times together." 

Jackson graduated from St. Louis University High School last year and was known for his contagious enthusiasm and athletic talent.

He was a wide receiver and sometimes defensive end for the high school football team. Whenever the team was faced with a play that could decide the game, they went to Jackson, Kornfeld said.

"He could do anything he set his mind to," he said. "He was just that talented of an athlete and that outstanding of a young man. He was just electric on the football field."

Jackson also played basketball at SLUH, where he was known for his speed and defensive skills, Kornfeld said. Jackson treasured his time on the court, Kornfeld said.

"He was one of those players that wished he could play three games a day," he said.

At SLUH and at Millikin, Jackson was a leader for the team who led by example, Kornfeld said. His energy and enthusiasm made everyone around him feel better, both on and off the field.

"He was a joy to be around," he said. "It was impossible for him not to put smiles on everybody's faces because he was just that type of individual. He was a very special young man.

"We've lost a good one in David."

A GoFundMe page for Jackson's medical expenses had raised about $30,000.

Fugitive Beach is an old quarry that has been turned into a tourist attraction. In June, a man from Belleville drowned at the same spot. A 6-year-old boy from Fenton drowned there in 2014.

Herald & Review reporter Jaylyn Cook contributed to this article.


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