LIBERTY, Mo. — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is recommending that the Coast Guard require the removal of canopies, side curtains and the associated framing from amphibious tour vehicles known as stretch duck boats.
The NTSB is also recommending that the Coast Guard require sufficient reserve buoyancy in modified duck boats to help prevent them from sinking.
“These recommendations are important for making certain that the vessels themselves are safe to operate,” said the chairman of the NTSB, Robert Sumwalt.
The recommendations were included among documents released Tuesday by the NTSB as part of its investigation into the tragedy on Table Rock Lake near Branson.
Nearly two years ago, one of these duck boats sank in the Missouri lake, killing 17 people, including nine members of one Indianapolis family. Six other passengers were injured, two seriously.
On July 19, 2018, a Severe Thunderstorm Watch had been issued for the area, followed by a Severe Thunderstorm Warning about 36 minutes before the sinking. The 33-foot amphibious vessel was one of four duck boats that operated on Table Rock Lake after the warning was issued.
The chairman of the NTSB, Robert Sumwalt, says the manager-on-duty for Ride the Ducks – Branson advised the captain and driver of the duck boat to complete the lake portion of the tour before the land tour, which usually came first.
“About five minutes after entering the water, the Stretch Duck 7 encountered the leading edge of a derecho, which generated 3-to-5-foot waves and wind gusts up to 73 miles per hour,” said Sumwalt. “The vessel sank about 250 feet away from the exit ramp it had been working its way toward, and near the stern of the paddle-wheeler Showboat Branson Belle.”
The owner of the sunken boat, Ripley Entertainment, has since settled 31 lawsuits filed by survivors or relatives of those who died.
The NTSB has criticized the Coast Guard for not following recommendations it has made since a duck boat accident in Arkansas killed 13 people in 1999.
“There were many similarities between that sinking and the one that we are considering today,” said Sumwalt. “The NTSB issued several recommendations in connection to the sinking of the Miss Majestic that were never acceptably acted upon.”