The duck boat tragedy last summer in Branson Missouri , when 17 people were killed, just gets worse the more we learn about it. Now, thanks to the Kansas City Star, we find out that under an agreement the boat owners had with the Coast Guard, the boat never should have left the dock on the evening it sank, and it had bilge pumps that were not adequate to discharging water that flooded into the vessel.
After the accident last July 19 on Table Rock Lake, the Star asked for records and correspondence regarding the amphibious vehicles operating in Branson. It ended up with more than 1,500 pages of documents from the Coast Guard and other agencies.
The records show that Ride the Ducks Branson, the company operating the duck boat tours there, asked the Coast Guard several years ago for approval to remove the boats’ original water-discharging pumps from the fleet. The Coast Guard granted its approval, but stipulated the boats could not operate on the lake if waves were more than two feet.
On the evening that the amphibious boat called Stretch Duck 07 sank, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning 23 minutes before the boat entered the water, saying that winds in excess of 60 mph were possible. In reality, winds on the lake reached 73 mph and waves were four feet.
As you can see in the video in the Star’s story below, the boat simply could not make headway against the storm, and it went down. None of the 17 people who died, or the 14 who survived, were wearing life jackets.
In its dealing with the Coast Guard about the pumps, Ride the Ducks Branson said that the boats’ routes on the lake didn’t take them far from shore, and “in the unlikely event of uncontrollable flooding, the master would take advantage of the close proximity to shore and make every effort to reach it.” The video shows that the captain could not control the boat in the storm.
As it turns out, Ride the Ducks Branson has announced that it will not open for this summer season. Federal investigations are continuing; victims’ families have filed a number of civil lawsuits. And Kenneth Scott McKee, captain of the boat that sank, has been indicted on charges of misconduct, negligence and attention to duty. Read more: