LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Missouri — A recorded interview obtained by Channel 13 with a Missouri Highway Patrolman contradicts information originally released by authorities about the drowning of a Clive man.
Brandon Ellingson drowned May 31 at Lake of the Ozarks, after being taken into custody by Trooper Anthony Piercy for alleged boating while intoxicated.
Troopers Chris Harris and Eric Stacks interviewed Sgt. Randy Henry on June 19 about his conversations with Piercy and other officers shortly after the drowning.
The type of lifejacket used by the trooper to transport Ellingson was questioned.
“He told me Tony arrested a person and handcuffed him and put a life jacket on him and somehow the guy went into the water. The life jacket came off. I said, ‘How’d a type one life jacket come off?,’” Sgt. Henry recalled. “He said, ‘Randy, it was a type three.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ And I said, ‘Wow. Why? What’s up with that?”
Henry also relayed to investigators what he observed on Piercy’s boat. He said he noticed a type three life jacket and Piercy’s fanny pack in the back of the boat. Both were wet. He told investigators the seats on the boat were also in the upright position, indicating Ellingson was leaning upright, not sitting when he went overboard. Piercy originally told investigators Ellingson was sitting.
“There was a type three laying in the back of the boat. Tony’s type five fanny pack, they were both wet and the bolster seat was up. Both seats were up,” Sgt. Henry told investigators.
Questions also remain about the speed at which Piercy was traveling. In a previous incident report, Piercy estimated the boat was going 10-miles-per-hour. But Henry told investigators Piercy admitted he was driving approximately 35-miles-per-hour. GPS readings indicate Piercy was going even faster.
“They told me the speed was 43mph. We all just said, ‘What?’…we talked about that pretty extensively amongst ourselves,” Sgt. Henry said.
Henry told investigators he was also “befuddled” about Piercy’s lack of knowledge about how to use his equipment, specifically the fanny pack that would have inflated had Piercy known he had to pull the rip cord. Henry said Piercy jumped in the water and had ahold of Ellingson, but let go because he thought he was going to drown.
“He said somehow Brandon got away from him. I said, ‘Did you inflate your life jacket? He said, ‘I though they auto inflated.’ I said, ‘You have to pull the rip cord.’”
“I asked him, you were under water, had you popped your cord you would have both come up,” Sgt. Henry added. “I said ‘You need to know how to use your equipment.’”
Henry also told investigators the incident was “surreal” and several troopers on the scene of the drowning were “in shock.”
“Just the whole chain of events from the get go, from not getting the proper life jacket, the speed, then once all that happened it kind of snowballed – the perfect storm… it just got worse and worse.”
The recording, which wasn’t heard during the coroner’s inquest, ends when Sgt. Henry speculates on whether the highest degree of care was taken.
A prosecutor told Channel 13 the evidence included in the inquest is determined by the coroner.
Criminal charges aren’t being filed against Trooper Piercy.