Tragedy struck on Table Rock Lake last week when a severe thunderstorm caused a tour boat to capsize, leaving 17 people dead. The boat, owned by Ride the Ducks Branson, was carrying 31 people when it sank. None of the victims were wearing a life jacket, according to rescuers. Sadly, nine of the fatalities were members of the same family who had been in Branson on vacation from Indiana. Victims ranged in age from a one-year-old baby girl to a 76-year-old grandfather. Seven passengers, including three children, were taken to the hospital in serious condition. The boat’s driver was among the dead. The captain survived.
Bad Weather Was Not Unexpected Prior To The Branson Duck Boat Departing
While the owner of the company that operated the boat stated that the weather was calm when the boat left the dock, the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 6:32—30 minutes before the boat sank—for southern Missouri, including Table Rock Lake. The storm hit with 75 mph winds, heavy rain, and lightning. After capsizing, the boat sank to a depth of about 40 feet, then rolled and sank another 40 feet, according to the Stone County sheriff. Another duck boat was on the water at the same time but managed to make it back to the dock.
Not the First Fatal Duck Boat Accident
Now the deadliest duck boat accident in history, the Branson accident is not the first tragedy with these popular tourist boats. In 1999, a similar boat sank in Hot Springs, Arkansas, killing 13 people. The vessels, modeled after World War II amphibious vehicles, are designed to drive on land and float on water. Duck boat tours are popular across the country in cities like Boston and Seattle as well as tourist destinations like Wisconsin Dells and Galveston, Texas. However, their design has raised safety concerns for over 20 years. Following the Hot Springs tragedy, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the boat had not been properly maintained. Their report recommended that all duck boat operators should take the following safety measures:
- Remove the canopies, which can trap passengers underneath when the boat sinks
- Add a backup buoyancy system to help the boat float once it has taken on water
- Require passengers to wear life jackets
- Close unnecessary access plugs
- Install independently powered electric bilge pumps
State investigators and the NTSB are currently investigating the Branson accident to determine the cause, but it is unlikely that the boat had these recommended safety features in place.
Were You Impacted by This Tragedy?
If you were on the Branson boat or lost a loved one in the accident, you need to talk to a compassionate, experienced Missouri attorney. It will take time for investigators to determine liability in the accident, but working with our attorneys will ensure that you are kept informed of the process and that your right to compensation for your suffering is protected. Although we are in Kansas City, we will come to you to hear your story. Reach out to us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616.