WEBSTER, SD—Justin Soodsma cannot believe Nicholas “Nick” Van Ginkel, a close friend of his for 23 years, is gone.

The two men had attended Western Christian High School in Hull and graduated in 2000 as part of the same class. They became best friends in high school and eventually became business partners.

The 38-year-old Soodsma was understandably upset when he heard Van Ginkel had been shot and killed by his own shotgun in a hunting accident Monday morning, Nov. 11, near Webster in northeast South Dakota.

“It was shocking, very, very shocking,” the Orange City man said Thursday morning, Nov. 14. “It’s just surprising because he’s a military vet and a guy who’s been hunting for like 20 years.

“He’s one of the safest gun owners that I know, but accidents happen,” Soodsma said. “That’s why it’s called an accident. You don’t plan for things like that.”

Sheriff Ryan Rucktaeschel of the Day County Sheriff’s Office in Webster said Van Ginkel was one of five men hunting ducks and geese early on the morning of Veterans Day about a mile and a half northwest of Webster.

As the 37-year-old Rock Valley man and another hunter moved to switch seats, a cornstalk got caught inside the trigger guard of Van Ginkel’s 12-gauge shotgun, pressed down on the trigger and fired the weapon, with the shot striking and killing Van Ginkel.

Rucktaeschel said the safety on Van Ginkel’s shotgun was not set to stop the weapon from firing as he changed seats with the other hunter.

The sheriff’s office received a call about the incident at about 8:30 a.m. The Christensen Ambulance Service from Webster, the South Dakota Highway Patrol and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks also responded to the scene.

According to his obituary, Van Ginkel was born March 21, 1982, in Sioux Center to Howard and Avonne (Klomp) Van Ginkel.

The younger Van Ginkel attended Rock Valley Christian School while Soodsma, who grew up on a farm between Doon and Hull, went to Hull Christian School before they became best friends at Western Christian.

“I met Nick as a freshman in high school,” Soodsma said. “We were inseparable.”

While attending Northwestern College in Orange City, Van Ginkel joined the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed with the Army Reserve military police unit in Pocahontas.

He learned the trade of drywall and painting and started his own Rock Valley-based company in 2004 called Van Ginkel Drywall & Painting.

Soodsma started working for Van Ginkel in November 2005. They became business partners in May 2013 and renamed the business as Van Ginkel & Soodsma Drywall & Painting.

“He taught me everything to do with drywall,” Soodsma said, noting he plans to keep the drywall company going and not change its name to honor the memory of Van Ginkel.

“He would be very proud with how the community has come together for his family and for his business,” he said. “I’ve felt an overwhelming surge of love and support from the community.”

Van Ginkel enjoyed hunting, bowling, traveling with his family, doing any outdoor activities and spending time around the campfire with his family and friends.

Soodsma said Van Ginkel “loved to have fun, but first and foremost was a hard worker.”

“He taught me how to just bust my butt throughout the day,” Soodsma said. “On your workday, you work hard. Then when you’re done working, you go home to your family and you spend time with them.”

Van Ginkel is survived by his wife, Cris; two sons, Karter and Castiel; parents; and several other family members.

“He was definitely a family man,” Soodsma said. “He loved his wife, his two sons. His older son is a senior at Rock Valley. He would take him hunting.

“He was just a really good guy,” he said. “He was a very serious person when he needed to be, but he also knew how to have fun.”