Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Troopers Lacked Training on Water before May Drowning, Sergeant Testifies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Troopers Lacked Training on Water before May Drowning, Sergeant Testifies

Article excerpt

A Highway Patrol sergeant testified before a Missouri House panel Tuesday that troopers lacked necessary training before the May drowning of a handcuffed man at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Sgt. Randy Henry spoke in a second hearing on the 2011 merger of the highway and water patrols. The reviews were called after the May 31 drowning of a handcuffed Iowa man who fell or jumped from a trooper's boat at the Lake of the Ozarks.

"It is obvious that the training that occurred before May 31, 2014, was deficient," Henry said.

Lawmakers now question whether the merger of the Water Patrol and the Highway Patrol overwhelmed troopers. Combining the departments was supposed to save about $3 million a year.

At the first hearing Oct. 1, lawmakers questioned current and retired troopers about changes in training policies before and since the merger.

Brandon Ellingson, 20, drowned in handcuffs after Trooper Anthony Piercy arrested him on suspicion of drunken boating. Ellingson's autopsy showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.268 percent when he died, more than three times the legal limit to drive or operate a boat.

Ellingson drowned after the life vest that Piercy put on him slipped off. Ellingson toppled from the patrol boat after the boat hit a wake. Some witnesses questioned whether the vest was properly secured. GPS data from Piercy's boat showed the boat accelerated to more than 40 mph before Ellingson entered the water.

No video was available of Ellingson going overboard because the boat's camera was missing its memory card.

A jury ruled last month at a coroner's inquest in Morgan County, Mo., that Ellingson's death was an accident. A special prosecutor appointed to the case declined to charge Piercy with a crime.

At the inquest, Piercy said he lacked the training to handcuff someone or handle a water rescue. …

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