Family, friends honor Columbia veteran who died in car crash

6 months 3 weeks 5 days ago Thursday, October 25 2018 Oct 25, 2018 Thursday, October 25, 2018 2:00:00 PM CDT October 25, 2018 in News
By: Kasia Kerridge, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - The family and friends of the Columbia native who died in a car crash Saturday night are preparing for a funeral.

Andrew Helmreich, 28, was a veteran of the U.S. Army for five years, and did a tour in Afghanistan. He was set to graduate from Columbia College in December with a degree in business management. 

Helmreich was one of two passengers in a deadly Columbia car crash Saturday night. Prosecutors say William Lalka was driving while intoxicated when the crash happened.

Family and friends described Helmreich as very religious, the life of the party and the happiest person they knew.

"He's the type of person you hear about when they come in the room, it lights up, everybody smiles," John Graves, Helmreich's uncle, said earlier this week.

Helmreich served in Afghanistan from February 2014 until November of that year, according to Graves. He was honorably discharged in 2017. 

His friend, Brian Arsenault, died in Afghanistan while they were there in 2014. Helmreich wore a bracelet in honor of Arsenault. Friends gathered Wednesday night to make that same type of bracelet in honor of Helmreich.

"You know, he just had everything in front of him. Just escaped death in Afghanistan essentially, because you can get killed there everyday. To have his life cut short is such a waste," said Graves.

Friend Cole Blackburn said he and Helmreich were inseparable since high school. They graduated from Hickman High School in 2009.

"There is a part of us gone now," said Blackburn.

Another friend, Tony Veros, described Helmreich as knowing everyone, and would have to say goodbye to everyone before leaving somewhere.

"He knew no stranger," said Veros, fighting back his emotions. "The thing is, with this group, we're so close."

Helmreich's roommate and friend from high school, Jared Tonyn, said it has been quiet without his pal.

"I keep expecting him to just walk through that door, you know, I keep waiting for that garage door to open. It just doesn't feel real," said Tonyn.

Tonyn introduced Helmreich to Camden Thoeming, who at the time, also just left the military.

"Immediately we clicked. We both have tours in Afghanistan. We both dealt with the aftermath of that and kind of confided in each other and became very close," said Thoeming.

According to Graves, Helmreich received a number of awards during his time in the military including Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star and NATO Medal. 

Tonyn and Thoeming went to the crash site to wrap their heads around what had happened. They found a small, folded up American flag on top of the ruble.

"It was kind of like, it was supposed to be there," said Thoeming.

The American flag is now in a shadow box, along with a picture of Helmreich's mother who passed in 2010, and other small items from each person in the group.

Graves said Helmreich's family has received amazing support from the community and Columbia College. They hope to start a scholarship fund for a student veteran in his nephew's name.

A funeral service will be held for Helmreich Saturday at 10 a.m. at Columbia United Church of Christ.

More News

Grid
List
CALLAWAY COUNTY - People in Callaway County are cleaning up extensive damage after storms came rushing through Tuesday night. ... More >>
2 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 1:26:00 PM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's corrections officers are some of the lowest paid in the country. That's created staff shortages, leading... More >>
2 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 1:05:00 PM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - North Jefferson City has been ordered to evacuate by 5 p.m. due to flooding. An emergency... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 12:10:00 PM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma was bracing Wednesday for more rain, with parts of the state already flooded following days... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 11:50:05 AM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Many roads across mid-Missouri are closed due to recent storms and heavy rain, and with more storms... More >>
3 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 11:37:00 AM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas paid out-of-state law firms at least $899,000 in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to defund... More >>
4 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 11:09:00 AM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin-based convenience store chain Kwik Trip has removed some vegetable trays from its stores after several... More >>
6 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 9:36:00 AM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - NASCAR is buying International Speedway in a deal worth about $2 billion. International Speedway... More >>
6 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 9:27:00 AM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has reversed the Missouri Department of Public Safety's revocation of the peace officer... More >>
6 hours ago Wednesday, May 22 2019 May 22, 2019 Wednesday, May 22, 2019 8:51:00 AM CDT May 22, 2019 in News
ROCHEPORT - A community effort to hold back flood waters began in Rocheport Wednesday morning. With recent rain causing... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 11:00:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Blues are advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 49... More >>
17 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 9:47:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in Sports
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A severe storm in the St. Louis area is forcing Lambert Airport to temporarily halt all... More >>
20 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 6:51:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in News
FULTON - After three years and $140 million in construction, the Fulton State Hospital is ready to start celebrating. ... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 6:33:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - People looking for work will have a chance to mingle with about a dozen employers at a hiring... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 5:39:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Ole Miss eliminated Missouri from the SEC baseball tournament, 2-1, Tuesday afternoon. Austin James doubled with a... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 5:24:35 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in Sports
JEFFERSON CITY- The Missouri River could crest over flood stage because of ongoing storms, according to Jefferson City's Department of... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 5:00:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in Weather
COLUMBIA - From an early age, I have always enjoyed reading. I noticed, however, as I got older, my reading... More >>
23 hours ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 3:43:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in Weekly Wellness
JEFFERSON CITY -- Several abortion rights groups gathered throughout the state, Tuesday to protest Missouri's newly-passed anti-abortion bill. The... More >>
1 day ago Tuesday, May 21 2019 May 21, 2019 Tuesday, May 21, 2019 2:49:00 PM CDT May 21, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 82°
4pm 85°
5pm 84°
6pm 81°
7pm 79°