Officer back to work after Lake of the Ozarks drowning investigation

Jun 10, 2014

The arresting officer involved in the drowning of a handcuffed Iowa man came back to work Tuesday.

The Lake of the Ozarks
Credit bsabarnowl / flickr

Trooper Anthony Piercy returned to his job 12 days after 20-year old Brandon Ellingson drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks. Piercy arrested Ellingson for suspicion of boating while intoxicated and was transporting him back to an office for a Breathalyzer test before the incident occurred.

The water patrol's incident report states Ellingson stepped to the right side of the boat while it was in motion and either jumped or fell into the water.

The officer handcuffed Ellingson then put a lifejacket on him. The life jacket came off of Ellingson and he fell beneath the surface while the arresting officer, Anthony Piercy, tried to rescue him from the water. It remains unclear if the officer properly secured the life vest during the arrest.

The incident took place in the main channel of the Gravois Arm of the lake, which can be a hazardous spot for a person in the water according to Missouri Highway Patrol Sergeant Paul Reinsch.

"The suspect was actually located the next morning around 11:30 in around approximately 80 feet of water," Reinsch said. "So very deep water and of course a lot of boat traffic in that area as well."

Piercy put a Type III flotation device on Ellingson after he handcuffed him. According to the Missouri Water Patrol's handbook of boating laws and responsibilities, Type III life jackets are not ideal for rough waters.

The handbook states:

"These vests or full sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up."

Kansas-based Army Corps of Engineers Operations Projects Manager Brian McNulty also said the Type III should always be worn with the person's arms through the vest.

"A Type III is a floatation aid and it's usually some type of a vest," McNulty said. "If it's a vest, normally there's armholes that you would have to put your arms through to appropriately don the piece of equipment."

McNulty also said the Type I life vest could be better for arrests since it fits around a person's neck and does not need their arms to be worn properly.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said results of the official investigation of the incident are expected this week.