13 dead after Missouri tourist boat accident
Divers on Friday pulled the last four bodies from the wreckage of a “duck boat” that capsized in a storm on a Missouri lake, killing 17 people, the local sheriff’s office confirmed to CBC News.
The amphibious Ride the Ducks vehicle was carrying 31 passengers, including children, when a microburst storm hit Table Rock Lake outside the tourist city of Branson on Thursday. A video of the incident showed the boat battered by waves.
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 on Thursday evening.
Pace said those who died ranged in age from one to 70.
A spokesperson for the Cox Medical Center Branson said four adults and three children arrived at the hospital shortly after the incident. Two adults were in critical condition and the others were treated for minor injuries, Brandei Clifton said.
Investigators blamed stormy weather for the accident. Winds at the time were blowing as hard a 105 km/h, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s important that we find out for sure what events did occur,” Gov. Mike Parson said at a Friday morning news
conference. “Today it’s just still early.”
He offered his condolences and pledged to provide all the resources necessary to complete the investigation.
By order of <a href=”https://twitter.com/GovParsonMO?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@GovParsonMO</a>, effective immediately, all flags at all State and government offices will be flown at half-staff, until sunset, July 27, 2018, honoring the victims of the boating accident at Table Rock Lake in Stone County.
Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader, said the victims’ names were not being released while families were still being notified.
He also said the driver of the Ride the Ducks boat died, but the captain survived.
Rader said he understood there were life-jackets on board the duck boat but he was unable to say if passengers had been wearing them.
“This is a really tough situation and it’s gut wrenching,” city spokesperson Melody Pettit told a brief news conference outside the community’s city hall Friday. “But we are doing our best to try to help.”
A woman on a nearby vessel captured video of the duck boat being tossed on the water just before it sank.
Emergency crews responded shortly after 7 p.m. CT after thunderstorms rolled through an area, the fire district said in a Twitter post.
Another duck boat on the lake made it safely back to shore.
A severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for Branson at 6:32 p.m. Thursday, about 40 minutes before the boat tipped over.
Rader said an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working security for the boat company helped rescue people after the accident.
Dive teams from several law enforcement agencies assisted in the effort until the search and rescue was paused overnight.
On Friday, divers located the vessel, which came to rest on its wheels about 25 metres deep on the lakebed, and authorities planned to recover it later in the day.
Popular vacation spot
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that investigators will arrive on the scene Friday morning.
Suzanne Smagala with Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson, said the company was assisting authorities with the rescue effort. She said this was the Branson tour’s first accident in more than 40 years of operation.
Branson is about 320 kilometres southeast of Kansas City and is a popular vacation spot for families and other tourists looking for entertainment ranging from theme parks to live music. It draws 7.2 million visitors a year, according to city tourism officials.
Duck boats, known for their ability to travel on land and in water, have been involved in other deadly incidents in the past. They include one in 2015 in Seattle in which five college students were killed when a boat collided with a bus, and one in 1999 that left 13 people dead after the boat sank near Hot Springs, Ark.
Four people — including a mother and her two young children — drowned in the Ottawa River when an amphibious pleasure craft, the Lady Duck, sank in 2002.
Safety advocates have sought improvements to the boats since the Arkansas incident. Critics argued that part of the problem is numerous agencies regulate the boats with varying safety requirements.
Duck boats were originally used by the U.S. military in the Second World War to transport troops and supplies, and later were modified for use as sightseeing vehicles.