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Man drowns despite efforts of friend to save him

By Tom Jackson • Jun 29, 2019 at 8:00 AM

SANDUSKY — A 23-year-old Sandusky man drowned Wednesday despite the efforts of a friend, who went into the water and tried to save him.

Police identified the drowning victim as Brandon Stegall.

According to a police report, officers and Sandusky firefighters rushed to 308 Cement Ave., near Lions Park, at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday on a report that a man was in the water offshore.

When police arrived, they found Spencer Lippus, 23, of the 300 block of Cement Ave., who was very upset and could be heard saying, “I tried to save him,” the report states. 

Lippus told police he took his father’s Zodiac boat out on the water with his friend, Stegall, near Horseshoe Drive and Cement Avenue. They were not far offshore, Lippus told police.

Lippus said he went for a swim while Stegall controlled the boat. Lippus then came back to the boat and Stegall jumped into the water for a swim.

Stegall began to drown, Lippus told police.

“Brandon was having trouble swimming and began to go under,” the police report states.

“Spencer then stated he jumped into the water to save Brandon, but Brandon attempted to pull him under with him,” the police report states. “To save himself, Spencer got Brandon off him, climbed back into the Zodiac and came to shore.”

Police, looking at the boat, saw no signs of foul play or a struggle and told Spencer the incident appeared to be a tragic accident.

Police noticed Lippus appeared to have consumed alcohol. Lippus told them he drank three cans of beer.

Lippus was asked to submit to a field sobriety test. Lippus initially cooperated but then refused to continue the test, the police report states. Lippus was then arrested and charged with operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and was released to his girlfriend after being given a court date.

Lt. Dan Lewis of the Sandusky Police Department said Thursday firefighters recovered Stegall’s body after about an hour. There were no signs of trauma on the body, Lewis said.

“They’ll send him away for an autopsy to make sure there wasn’t something else involved,” Lewis said.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources also sent an officer from the Division of Parks and Watercraft to assist in the investigation.

The Register requested the ODNR’s report and was sent a very brief writeup that had little information. An ODNR official explained the investigation is ongoing and the incident report is all that can be released.

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