A Missouri House Committee held its first hearing Wednesday to examine the merger of the state’s Water Patrol with its Highway Patrol. The superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol told the committee with the potential for civil lawsuits, he would not answer questions about the drowning of a Clive,Iowa man while in Water Patrol custody.

Craig Ellingson, the father of 20-year-old drowning victim Brandon Ellingson, was at the hearing in Missouri along with his attorney Matthew Boles. Boles says what he and his client heard was “insulting.” “Going through the litany of success stories that the merger has brought about with manpower, training, and equipment and highlighted floods and the Ferguson civil unrest, and conveniently jumped over the May 31st drowning of Brandon Ellingson,” Boles says.

Some of the committee members have said it isn’t their place to investigate the drowning of Ellingson while in Water Patrol custody, but the Boles says there is more to measuring success than whether the merger saved money. “The cost of the loss of Brandon Ellingson’s life isn’t measured in dollars an cents,” according to Boles. “And if the rush to get offices on the lake and the rush to make sure that they have fulfilled the obligations of the merger have resulted in public safety concerns — such as the death of Brandon — this has been a failure.”

Boles took particular exception to the Highway Patrol superintendent’s description of what were called the successes of that merger, including specific water rescue incidents and response to disasters. “I thought it was somewhat insulting,” Boles says.

Boles says it doesn’t matter if the Highway Patrol members testifying don’t talk about that drowning during hearings on the merger. He says the information will come out. “All of the documents that they’re referencing are going to be discoverable. We are going to get an opportunity to depose all of these people. And we have a very, very good picture, based on eyewitness testimony, about what happened at the time of Brandon’s death,” Bole says.

Boles expects a civil case against the Patrol and the State of Missouri will be filed before the committee completes its work at the end of the year, and his client has also requested a federal investigation.

Thanks to Mike Lear of the Missourinet for this story.