An afternoon of boating fun ended with tragedy Saturday when a college student who had been taken into custody by Missouri Water Patrol on suspicion of drunk driving drowned after falling or jumping into the water while handcuffed.

According to reports, the 20-year-old Arizona State University student was arrested while partying with friends in Lake of the Ozarks after police suspected that he was driving a boat while impaired. The arresting officer reportedly planned on taking the young man to a local police station for blood-alcohol testing.

Apparently, the police officer had placed a life vest on the young man, but it is possible that the life vest wasn’t secured properly as a witness said that he saw the “life jacket and person separate in the water.”

It is unknown at this point how the young man ended up in the water, but it is believed that he stood up and either jumped or fell off of the patrol boat, which was not equipped with seat belts or an extra officer to help contain the arrestee.

The witness, who arrived at the scene on another boat, said he and the officer attempted to rescue the drowning man for three-to-four minutes, but he submerged under the water and his body was not recovered until the next morning by a dive team.

Adding another level of tragedy to the situation is that fact that the victim was described as a standout high school athlete who excelled in several sports, including swimming.

The young man’s grandmother has already told the media that the family is considering a lawsuit over their loved one’s death, and it appears that one would be warranted based on the facts the case that have been released thus far.

Not only could a wrongful death lawsuit provide the family with compensation for the pain and suffering they and their loved one went through, it could also serve as a wake-up call to police that handcuffing an individual on a boat who is believed to be intoxicated is a major safety threat.

Current Missouri State Police policy is to handcuff all suspects upon arrest, whether the arrest is occurring on land or on water.

Source: The Des Moines Register, “Witness describes drowning Clive man’s struggle in water,” Regina Zilbermints, June 3, 2014

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