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Pacific High School student drowns in Meramec River

CATAWISSA, Mo. – A Pacific High School senior out for an afternoon of fun less than two weeks before graduation drowned Wednesday in the Meramec River.

The incident happened at the Catawissa Conservation Area Quarry in Franklin County. The floodwaters of the Meramec River back up into this area. It’s a popular spot where teenagers typically hang out.

Classmates said Scotty Copeland was at the quarry with about four other friends Wednesday afternoon. He was on a Jet Ski when the watercraft ran out of gas. They said Copeland came back to shore and refueled the device.

Authorities said witnesses heard a noise and when they turned around, Copeland had been thrown from his Jet Ski and was unconscious in the water.

Copeland’s friends tried to rescue him but he went underwater and friends couldn’t get to him. He was not wearing a life jacket at the time.

Authorities recovered Copeland’s body between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"Whenever you're on a watercraft, you have to have a life jacket on,” said Master Sgt. Charles Bowles, Missouri State Highway Patrol Marine Division. “This subject did not have a life jacket and went under the surface of the water. I don't think really the flooding in the area had anything to do with this situation but anytime you're around water, it’s always a dangerous situation; that's why we stress to wear your life jacket."

Classmates said Copeland was well-liked around school.

The school released the following statement on Thursday:

"The Pacific High School community is saddened to learn of the death of one its 12th-grade students, Scotty Copeland. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they process this tragedy. In addition, the school district has grief counselors on hand, ready to provide support to our students as needed."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol Marine Division is continuing its investigation into Copeland’s death.

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