DROWNING INVESTIGATION: Trooper Tried to Save Clive Man

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A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper attempted to save a Clive man who drowned after being arrested for boating while intoxicated at the Lake of the Ozarks Saturday.

Brandon Ellingson, 20, of Clive, went into the water at the Lake of the Ozarks Saturday evening while being transported for a boating while intoxicated arrest. Officials said Ellingson stood up in the police boat and either fell or jumped in the water.

His body was recovered Sunday morning.

RELATED: Clive Man Drowns While In Police Custody

The incident remains under investigation and the officer who arrested Ellingson is on paid administrative leave, which is standard policy for major incidents, Missouri State Patrol Sgt. Paul Reinsch told the Des Moines Register.

Missouri State Highway Patrol policies require anyone arrested to be placed in handcuffs and anyone being transported by boat to have a life vest on.

The Register reports that Ellingson was handcuffed behind his back according to law enforcement officials. Reinsch said the trooper placed a standard "Level 3" life jacket – the type that resembles a vest and buckles three times in the front – on Ellingson. It came off in the water.

"That is a big part of our investigation," Reinsch said. "To determine how it came off after it was placed on him."

The officer jumped into the water and made several attempts to save Ellingson but couldn't reach him, Reinsch said.

The boats used by the Highway Patrol don't have seatbelts and, unlike with a squad car, troopers can't simply lock the doors to keep those arrested inside.

That, combined with the fact that most boats only carry one officer who is tasked with driving the vessel and keeping an eye on the prisoner, creates a unique challenge for troopers on the water, Reinsch said.

"It's a difficult situation," he said. "You can't lock the doors, can't place them in a seatbelt. It's very difficult to even stand a boat when it's moving. So a totally different situation."

Still, Reinsch could not recall another similar incident for the water patrol.

This was the second drowning death this year at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Ellingson was a graduate of Valley High School and a student at Arizona State University.

-The Des Moines Register contributed to this report


  • William Denison

    The young man was drunk and acting out like out like a drunk. He jumped off the boat plain and simple. This is not uncommon during OWI arrest of some drunk boaters getting arrested and heading to jail. With that being said it was not the officer’s fault or not even the young man’s fault but the fault of the adult who provided him with the alcohol.

    • Joe

      You are truly an idiot… It is the officials fault for not properly securing the life jacket and prisoner… Protect and server!

      • BrutallyHonest

        Learn propery english so that you do not look like an even bigger idiot. If he was not drunk, driving a boat AND underage drinking he would still be alive simple as that.

    • Chad P.

      And how do you know he jumped off the boat as you suggest? Also, once an officer detains someone, that person is his/her responsibility.

    • Guest

      What an ignorant comment to make! You weren’t even there first of all so you have NO idea wether he was acting out or not, & second you obviously didn’t even know Brandon, because anyone who did knows that he would NEVER EVER jump off. It was 100% completely the officers fault, & his only leverage in this case is him saying “he either fell or jumped off” & that the “life jacket came off”, there is no way a BUCKLED life jacket could have just “fallen off” if it was put on properly. Friends that were there have said that the officer just DRAPED the life jacket over him without even buckling it. Just a lazy horrible officer who couldn’t take two minutes to secure on a life jacket, and because of that an amazing & beautiful soul has been lost.

    • alice

      I agree with William Denison. However, I am not placing blame on the buyer. Brandon was 20, not 12. He knew it was wrong to (drinking in the first place) but drink and drive. I am not saying he deserved what happened by any means however- everyone has to be accountable for the actions taken. All the blame should not land on the officer- he was simply trying to make the lake a safer place by removing Brandon before he killed any one.
      He was 20. He knew right from wrong. He was an adult. He made a bad choice to drink, bad choice to drive and a bad choice to stand up in a moving boat.

  • heartbroken

    How in the world did a 3 buckle life vest come off with his hands behind him handcuffed? Serious?? I’m a boater and have had a life jacket like this individual had on. You can’t get out of those life jackets unless you undo the buckles! And he was handcuffed! How does this life jacket come off. No way!!! He couldn’t have had a life jacket on when he was in the boat and handcuffed!
    It is the responsibility of the officer for this individuals safety while transporting someone. Just like it’s my responsibility when individuals are riding in my boat!
    It’s very sad! Just need to pray for this family and friends at this very difficult time!

    • RoccoB

      Agreed, How does this device wrangle itself thru shackled arms and up over shoulders.
      This wasn’t Houdini
      They must have just draped the PFD over his head or shoulders loosely and said…”OK…good enough”

  • David S

    I am simply aghast and horrified that the MO State Patrol is so inept and would allow a tragedy like this to happen. There needs to be Manslaughter charges brought against the officer and the State needs to be held accountable.
    Our thoughts and prayers go out to Brandon’s family and friends.

  • A.B.

    Alcohol is not what caused Brandon’s death. Falling off the boat, life jacket coming off, and inability to swim with his hands cuffed is what caused his death. Regardless, he was someone’s child, grandchild, brother and friend. People are mourning his death and to spew negative comments about this situation or Brandon is in bad taste. He did not hurt anyone and absolutely did not deserve to lose his life. My son played hockey with Brandon for 5 years. Brandon was a leader and was very well liked and respected within our hockey family. He comes from a wonderful family. I can’t even imagine the pain they are going through right now. I’m certain there will be an in depth investigation of Brandon’s death and the truth will be told. And hopefully, proper punishment for this horrific, sad situation will be sentenced. But nothing will bring this young man back. He had his whole life in front of him and a loving family that will now forever feel a void with his absence. I pray for Brandon and his family.

  • Jag

    I don’t condone the officer’s action and believe there should be some liability there if Brandon was not properly secured. However, what would have happened if Brandon had hit another boater while drunk and killed the passengers aboard? Would you still be talking about how good of a man he was? What if other children were killed? Like it or not, he was doing something he shouldn’t have been doing and paid a horrible price. Prayers for the families of everyone involved.

    • A.B.

      From my understanding, Brandon was not arrested for driving a boat while intoxicated. I do not believe that judgement against Brandon’s character is justifiable for a scenario, such as you are describing, that clearly did not happen. The only death here was his and drinking or not drinking, it was not deserved and you cannot possibly know that other lives were spared due to his being taken. Discussions of ‘what ifs’ in this situation are pointless and cruel disrespect for his loving family. He drowned because he was handcuffed and not properly secured in the life jacket. That is what happened, why try to add a false storyline on top of an already tragic circumstance.

      • rea

        @AB- it clearly stated he was being taken in for driving while intoxicated. And since he was 20- anything will be justified as legally over the limit.

      • A.B.

        No, that is an incorrect statement. He was taken into custody for suspicion of intoxication. There was no sobriety test given and he was not in the boat when arrested. He absolutely was not taken into custody for operating the boat while intoxicated.

    • Justice

      Sorry, Jag, there are no ‘whatifs’ with this story. You should only comment on what happened not on what could have happened. The way I read the story is that this cop royally screwed up and cost a 20 year old man his life. Right here is another reason I always refer to this as the state of Misery.

      • Jim

        No, I think the ‘what if’s’ are important. Should he have died, no, Heavens no. Was the situation handled properly, no, of course not.

        There have been some bloggers though, that have said ‘gee, he was just doing what all college age kids do’ ‘he was just celebrating the beginning of summer’ with the attitude that the officer should have just looked the other way at the underage drinking and boating while under the influence.

        I think the ‘what if’s’ are to counter the attitude that he should have just been left alone to drink and do whatever he wanted.

        I don’t think anyone is saying this young man was a bad man. I don’t think anyone is saying this young man deserved to die. I think people ARE saying that he should not have been drinking if he was underage. I think people ARE saying that he should not have been boating while drinking.

        Yes, the situation was handled very poorly by the officer from the sounds of things. Don’t break the law and you won’t get arrested. Yes, I know, now someone is going to come back screaming at me about how they were falsely arrested, especially by the Missouri cops who only arrest Iowans.

  • R-dizzle

    This is a tragic thing for sure however I am confused how people could think that a life jacket could not ever come off. Now think about this. I am sure the officer did not tell the young man to put this life jacket on first then I will handcuff you. Now if that would have happened there is no way a life vest could come off because your arms would be through the arm holes.

    What probably happened was the officer arrested the male with his hands behind his back which is standard practice THEN put a life jacket on over his shoulders and then latched the 3 buckles.

    Now imagine hitting the water at whatever speed they were going, say 25-30 mph. If you think that a life jacket could not slid off when hitting the water at that speed then you are crazy. The arms are what keep life jackets on not the buckles when you have impacts like that. Common physics will tell you that. Like I said it a horrible accident and I think that is what it will probably be left as. Prayers for everyone involved.

    • Alan

      Oh, was it the vest style of jacket? I thought it was the ‘U’ shaped one that went over your head, behind your neck, then two ‘arms’ down over your checks, then wrap the 3 nylon straps around you and buckle in front. That kind someone else could put on you properly when you were handcuffed. But, other person would need to be sure to buckle it, and pull the straps tight enough.

      I feel horrible for this young man. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

  • Guest

    If the big Valley player and hockey player hadn’t been drunk in the first place none of this would have happened. Goes to show he is just as irresponsible as any other underage teenager!

  • Lou

    @Guest, ok I’m sure you are perfect and never was young or got drunk, that’s a great excuse to end up 80 feet under in the Ozarks handcuffed and dead..he never had a chance. Liability was transferred to the Police when they took him in custody, they failed.

    • rea

      But once again @Lou- if he hadn’t been drunk, none of this would have happened. Where was the liability when he was tossing back the brews on a boat? It was in his lap. Not saying he deserved this but it could have either never happened or he could have ended up killing a whole family by crashing into their boat. There needs to be some blame on Brandon. He was legally drunk and driving a boat.

      • angry newt

        REA, you are ignorant. Read the damn article. A sobriety test WAS NOT performed. I am not implying the victim was or was not drunk.

  • Guest

    Deaths due to motor vehicle or motorized watercraft accidents–report required when–tests for alcohol and drugs, when.

    58.445. 1. If any person within a coroner’s or medical examiner’s jurisdiction dies within eight hours of, and as a result of, an accident involving a motor vehicle, the coroner or medical examiner shall report the death and circumstances of the accident to the Missouri state highway patrol in writing. If any person within a coroner’s or medical examiner’s jurisdiction dies within eight hours of, and as a result of, an accident involving a motorized watercraft and was thought to have been the operator of such watercraft, the coroner or medical examiner shall report the death and circumstances of the accident to the Missouri state highway patrol, water patrol division, in writing. The report required by this subsection shall be made within five days of the conclusion of the tests required in subsection 2 of this section.

    2. The coroner or medical examiner shall make, or cause to be made, such tests as are necessary to determine the presence and percentage concentration of alcohol, and drugs if feasible, in the blood of the deceased. The results of these tests shall be included in the coroner’s or medical examiner’s report to the state highway patrol as required by subsection 1 of this section.

    The question as to whether or not he was intoxicated will be answered when the results of the tests are available.

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