Skip to Content

Highway Patrol training changed one year after man drowns

It has been one year since a 20-year-old man drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks in Highway Patrol custody.

Since Brandon Ellingson’s death, ABC 17 News has continued to dig deeper and ask questions about how this could happen.

Ellingson was pulled over by a trooper on suspicion of boating while drinking.

ABC 17 News found the trooper did not follow several different protocols leading up to Ellingson falling overboard.

ABC 17 is now checking back in with lawmakers and Highway Patrol to see if we are any safer this summer at the lake.

“At the current time we are looking at more of a trust and verify. They’ve told us they are going to do more training and we have seen evidence of that training,” said state Rep. Rocky Miller.

ABC 17 News has hundreds of pages of training evidence we obtained through an open records request.

What we found though was a lot of the marine operations training was written years ago, so why was it not followed?

Highway Patrol would not answer our questions so we turned to state representatives who said they will be holding Highway Patrol accountable.

One of those representatives is Miller who ABC 17 News also interviewed five months ago after learning some troopers were not trained properly.

“I think they were lacking in training, therefore, the public safety was at risk,” said Miller five months ago.

This summer Miller says, “I think the highway patrol/water patrol is doing as much as they can to make everyone as safe as they can this year.”

In the stack of training papers ABC 17 News found the marine operations final swim test.

It is a 100 meter swim with a uniform, pull a brick out of 7 feet of water, and tread for 12 minutes (last 2 minutes with hands out of water).

According to the American Red Cross water front lifeguards have to pass a swim test of 550 yards.

So ABC 17 News decided to take the new marine operations final swim test to lifeguards at the Camdenton Aquatic Center.

One of the lifeguards was able to pass the swim test, though she did not have a uniform on which would make the swim more challenging.

But still not as challenging as retired water patrol men were once used to.

Before the merger in 2011 when marine operations was separate from highway patrol ABC 17 News was told this was the swim test: A half mile swim in uniform, treading water for 30 minutes, and before the test had 18 weeks of swimming to prepare versus now just four weeks.

“I am concerned they are not kept in the water a lot,” said Miller.

Representative Diane Franklin said they will be checking in with Highway Patrol next month to make sure the changes are happening.

“I think what people will find is that the water patrol division of Highway Patrol is very much prepared to take on the summer waters,” said Franklin.

This statement from Franklin is very different than how she was feeling five months ago.

Five months ago she told ABC 17 News she was disappointed with Highway Patrol and how they were handling their training department.

But now she said she is confident changes are happening and the troopers will now all be trained properly.

But again, as ABC 17 News learned it is all training that should have been happening years ago.

“We are going to meet with them (Highway Patrol) again and again and again until we are sure they are doing what needs to happen to make sure we are safe at the Lake of the Ozarks,” said Miller.

ABC 17 News reached out to Highway Patrol for this story.

All they would says is they are reviewing their marine operations training.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

ABC 17 News Team


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content