13 killed in Branson duck boat accident

The Associated Press - July 20, 2018 10:24 am

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing after a duck boat packed with tourists capsized in high winds on a southwest Missouri lake, killing at least 13 people.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Pace said 14 people survived, including seven who were injured when the Ride the Ducks boat sank on Table Rock Lake in Branson Thursday evening.

Patrol divers found two more bodies early Friday, raising the death toll from 11 to 13, Pace said.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said Thursday that stormy weather likely made the boat capsize. Another duck boat on the lake made it safely back to shore.

“Debris was flying everywhere,” Allison Lester said in an interview Friday.

Lester’s boyfriend, Trent Behr, said they saw the body of a woman in the water and helped to pull her into the boat. He said he was about to start CPR when an EMT arrived and took over.

A spokeswoman for the Cox Medical Center Branson said four adults and three children arrived at the hospital shortly after the incident. Two adults are in critical condition and the others were treated for minor injuries, Brandei Clifton said.

Steve Lindenberg, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Springfield, Missouri, said the agency issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Branson area Thursday evening. Lindenberg said winds reached speeds of more than 60 mph.

Capt. Jim Pulley, owner of Sea Tow Table Rock Lake, told the Springfield News-Leader that the winds pushed the duck boat that capsized behind a steamboat that was tied to the dock.

Rader said an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working security for the boat company helped rescue people after the boat capsized. Dive teams from several law enforcement agencies assisted in the effort.

The National Transportation Safety Board said investigators will arrive on the scene Friday morning.

President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences Friday, extending his deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved.

Suzanne Smagala with Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson, said the company was assisting authorities with the rescue effort. Smagala added this was the Branson tour’s only accident in more than 40 years of operation.

Duck boats, which can travel on land and in water, have been involved in other deadly incidents in the past. Five college students were killed in 2015 in Seattle when a duck boat collided with a bus, and 13 people died in 1999 when a duck boat sank near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Safety advocates have sought improvements since the Arkansas deaths. Critics argued that part of the problem is that too many agencies regulate the boats with varying safety requirements.

Duck boats were originally used by the U.S. military in World War II to transport troops and supplies, and later were modified for use as sightseeing vehicles.

 

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