The Missouri Water Patrol officer driving a patrol boat when a handcuffed man went overboard and drowned this weekend has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Sgt. Paul Reinsch, water patrol spokesman, said officers typically are placed on leave, pending the outcome of an investigation, after any "critical incident" or death.
He refused to name the officer but a water patrol report posted online listed Anthony C. Piercy as the driver of the patrol boat.
Brandon E. Ellingson, 20, of Clive, Iowa, was arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated Saturday evening. He was reportedly driving a boat at Lake of the Ozarks which had a handful of occupants.
Reinsch said Ellingson, who was handcuffed behind his back, stood up while being transported on a 29-foot Donza power cruiser boat and stepped to the edge of the water patrol boat and then either fell or jumped overboard. The fall was at 5:23 p.m. Saturday.
"He realized immediately that the man went into the water," Rensch said of the water patrol officer driving the boat.
Ellingson was wearing a life jacket but it did not stay on him after he went into the water. Reinsch said the patrol uses different types of lifejackets and it was likely the vest type, which snaps in front.
He was placed in a seat but was not secured. "There are no seatbelts in the boat," Reinsch said.
A patrol dive team recovered Ellingson's body at 11:26 a.m. Sunday. He was 80 feet below the surface near the main channel of the Gravois Arm, which is where he first reportedly entered the water. It is one of the deepest parts of the lake.
A full report on the investigation could be released as early as next week, Reinsch said.
The officer and Ellingson were the only people on the boat. Reinsch said he was not sure how fast the boat was going because of factors like the boat model, traffic and water conditions.
"That is going to be part of the investigation," he said.
Reinsch said the officer was transporting Ellingson to shore so a field sobriety test could be performed. He said officers typically take those suspected of intoxication to the jail or the patrol office, depending on which is closer.
"It's hard to do some of the tests on water," he said.
He said officers carry a handheld device that determines whether someone has been drinking but a Breathalyzer test is typically performed once the individual is taken to jail.
The patrol report said the boat the Ellingson had been driving was "driven from the scene." He said officers can release the boat to another occupant, who doesn't appear to be intoxicated, when a driver has been arrested. In some cases, if the driver is alone or other occupants are suspected of intoxication, the boat must be towed to shore.
Reinsch refused to discuss arrest protocol on the water, noting that officers often work alone. "The main thing is the safety of the trooper," he said.
There are about 30 water patrol officers who are trained to work Lake of the Ozarks. Staffing tends to be higher on the weekends, when there is more boat traffic.
Ellingson was a recent graduate from Valley High School in West Des Moines and studied business at Arizona State University. He was planning on working with his father at Glacier Properties in Clive after graduation, said his grandmother, Gloria Ellingson.
"You know what, he was perfect. He was handsome, he was very very smart," Gloria Ellingson said. "He could joke with you. He could be on any level. There wasn't anybody like him."
Gloria Ellingson declined to discuss her grandson's death, saying the family may pursue a lawsuit. Reinsch said it will be a few days before a more detailed report of the incident is available.
His death was the second drowning at Lake of the Ozarks during the weekend.
Adam K. Pedego, 25, of Columbia, drowned Friday after trying to save another passenger who fell overboard from a pontoon boat in McCoy Branch Cove, in Camden County.
Des Moines Register reporter Linh Ta contributed to this story.