Coroner rules drowning as cause of death The body of Christopher Oakie was recovered in this stretch of the Vermillion River between Vermillion and Burbank known as Walker's Landing Sunday afternoon by the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Vermillion/Clay County Fire Department Rescue Squad. by David Lias Corky Lemon was hoping for Sunday afternoon to be just another enjoyable time of fishing from his boat in the Vermillion River.
Then the unexpected happened. Lemon discovered the body of a man floating in a brush pile in the river near Walker's Landing, located between Vermillion and Burbank.
"After I found the body, I went upstream," he said. He found another fisherman who had a telephone with him, and the Clay County Sheriff's Office was called.
At approximately 3 p.m., officials from the sheriff's office and the Vermillion/Clay County Fire Department Rescue Squad recovered the body of Christopher Oakie, 21, of Vermillion.
The man's identity was confirmed following an autopsy performed by Dr. Brad Randall in Sioux Falls Monday.
Randall determined that Oakie died of drowning, and estimated that his body had been in the river for approximately seven days.
While the rescue squad was working to recover the body Sunday, Christopher Oakie's father, Joseph Oakie, made a report to the Vermillion Police Department that his son had not been seen by family or friends for a week.
On Sunday, local law enforcement were not suspecting that Oakie was the victim of foul play, but they weren't ruling out that possibility.
After Monday's autopsy, the suspicions of foul play diminished further.
Clay County Deputy Sheriff Andy Howe said officials may learn more about what happened to Oakie when they receive the results of tests currently being performed on the victim's blood. The results of those tests won't be known for approximately two weeks.
"Right now, the cause of death appears to be an accident," Howe said. "We don't know when or where. We have been talking to his family and friends, and have been trying to establish when and where he was last seen. His family had been looking for him."
The Oakie family lives in the vicinity of Cotton Park in Vermillion, which is near the Vermillion River. Oakie's body was found approximately two miles downstream from that area.
"We're not saying he entered the river near his home; we really don't know where he went into the river," Howe said. "The last sighting of him alive does correspond with the week-long period that the medical examiner believes the body may have been in the river."
Finding a body in the Vermillion River on Sunday "was one of the last things I expected to happen that day," Lemon said. "He was laying face down. He had blue jeans, a blue T-shirt and work boots on."
Lemon said he's fished all of his life, and when he sees something strange in the water, he usually takes a closer look.
"I've always been curious, I guess," he said. "That day I saw something I couldn't identify in the brush pile that I just had to check out. And other people had been by that area earlier in the day and not seen the body.
"It's over and I hope I never find another body in the river," he added. "Once you do, you sure get a funny feeling."