Officials investigate drowning of handcuffed man at Lake of the Ozarks

Brandon Ellingson
Brandon Ellingson

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating the weekend drowning of a 20-year-old Iowa man who was handcuffed and being transported on suspicion of boating while intoxicated at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul Reinsch said Monday that Brandon Ellingson was taken into a Water Patrol boat, handcuffed and placed in a life vest.

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 said that it’s unclear why Ellingson’s life vest came off.

Reinsch says the trooper involved has been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure. He says the investigation likely would take at least a week.

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.

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.

Ellingson was from Clive, Iowa, and had been attending Arizona State University.

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.