Eyewitness to Brandon Ellingson's drowning speaks out

Witness to Brandon Ellingson's death speaks out

COLUMBIA, Mo. - It has been almost five months since Brandon Ellingson drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks, but for the Moreau family it feels like just yesterday.

Twenty-year-old Ellingson drowned while in highway patrol custody after he was arrested for drinking while boating.

He fell overboard while handcuffed and slipped out of his life vest.

A coroner's inquest that was called earlier this month ruled Ellingson's death accidental.

Larry Moreau who witnessed Ellingson in the water that evening of May 31, said it's more than just his moral obligation to share what he saw, it's out of fear.

"That's the first thing that hit us. It was complete horror. How did that happen?"

Those were just some of the thoughts that ran through Moreau's head when he learned the man who fell off the highway patrol boat had drowned.

Ellingson and his life vest floating next to him were about 200 feet away from the Moreau's boat.

Trooper Anthony Piercy's boat was even closer.

Moreau said he saw Piercy and Ellingson standing on the patrol boat when it whizzed past their boat.

It was just moments later when they caught up to patrol boat that was stopped and a person floating near it.

Moreau said he could not figure out what was going on.

The trooper did not have his lights on and was not calling for help.

Moreau could see Ellingson's head above the water and his life vest floating near him.

He did not think Ellingson was drowning because he figured if that was the case he'd have reached for the life vest that was near him.

Since trooper Piercy was not calling for help, the Moreau family left the area.

However, hours later when the Moreau's learned Ellingson was handcuffed, that evening has forever been in their minds.

"We were relieved that the world was going to get to see what we saw from the cameras. It turned into an absolute nightmare because now we are the only ones that saw it," said Moreau.

Piercy did not have a memory card in his camera on May 31.

It was after the corner's inquest when the Moreau family decided to speak out because they do not feel like the truth was given.

Moreau told ABC 17 News he would like to see a federal investigation into this case.

On Wednesday state representatives are meeting for a public hearing in Jefferson City to review the way the highway patrol and water patrol division are managed.

They will also go over the training trooper receive, and if the merger that placed the water patrol into the Missouri State Highway Patrol in 2011 is effective.

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