By Joel Currier
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
GRAVOIS MILLS, Mo. — The state highway patrol is investigating how a life jacket came off a handcuffed Iowa man after he went overboard from a patrol boat and drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks on Saturday evening.
Brandon E. Ellingson, 20, of Clive, Iowa, went overboard while being transported from the lake in a Missouri Highway Patrol boat about 5:20 p.m. Saturday after being arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated, the patrol said. The patrol had few specifics on Ellingson's original arrest other than that there were others in the boat Ellingson had been driving.
A patrol dive team using sonar recovered Ellingson's body about 11:30 a.m. Sunday at a depth of about 80 feet near where he went in, the patrol said.
Ellingson was handcuffed behind his back, said Sgt. Paul Reinsch of the patrol. The trooper, Anthony C. Piercy, 42, was driving the 2008 Donzi patrol boat and had put Ellingson in a standard "Level 3" life jacket, which looks like a vest and has three front buckles.
Ellingson was sitting next to Piercy when suddenly he stood up, took a few steps to the boat's right side and went in.
It is not clear how fast the boat was going when he went in the water or how the life jacket came off.
"He had it on when he entered the water but it came off at some point after he entered the water," Reinsch said.
Reinsch said the trooper tossed a hook to Ellingson to try to pull him out, then dived into the water after Ellingson but could not reach him.
State patrol boats do not have seat belts; each boat generally has only one trooper who must drive and simultaneously keep an eye on prisoners. Reinsch could not recall a similar drowning for the patrol.
"It's just a different world than putting them inside a vehicle," Reinsch said.
Ellingson was a Des Moines native, a business major at Arizona State University and a member of the university's Sigma Chi fraternity, according to the Des Moines Register.
An autopsy is planned for Ellingson.
Ellingson was the second drowning at the Lake of the Ozarks last weekend.
Adam K. Pedego, 28, of Columbia, Mo., drowned shortly before 11 p.m. Friday when he jumped in the water from a pontoon boat in an attempt to rescue a friend, the highway patrol said. The unidentified friend survived.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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