Bill introduced to improve duck boat safety

Following the recent sinking of a tour boat at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., that resulted in 17 deaths, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced legislation late last month to improve the safety of duck boats. The bill mandates that recommendations originally proposed by federal safety investigators after 13 people were killed when a duck boat sank on an Arkansas lake in 1999 be implemented.

“Nearly 20 years ago following a similar incident, recommendations were made to help prevent tragedies like we experienced in Branson but they were largely ignored.” McCaskill said in a statement. “It’ll take some time before we know exactly what went wrong in Branson, but there’s absolutely no reason to wait to take this commonsense step.”

McCaskill’s legislation would put into law the recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board following the 1999 duck boat accident in Arkansas. Those recommendations included requiring amphibious passenger vessels to be equipped to stay afloat in the event of flooding, and additional interim measures such as removal of canopies and increased inspections until all vessels are upgraded.

In a speech on the Senate floor last month about the tragedy at Table Rock Lake, McCaskill noted that the full investigation of the incident is expected to take a year or longer, but that Congress shouldn’t wait when there are steps that can be taken now based on past recommendations. Following the tragedy in Branson, McCaskill met with members of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board, and those assisting in the search and rescue and family assistance.

About the author

David Krapf

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.


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    The vehicle entered the water when they should not have. The storm that came in DID NOT come out of nowhere. The boat ramp where the DUKWS go in at the captain would have been looking north. When they entered the water the whole northern horizon was BLACK with storm clouds extending high into the atmosphere. There had been weather reports of the approaching storm front, the crew was informed to “do the water portion first” and instead of holding up instead of NOT going at all the company rolled the dice that they would beat the storm. The captain rolled the dice that they could beat the storm. And because of that bad judgement on both the company and captain 17 people died. 9 from one family. ( I live less than 5 miles from where this vehicle went down on the N shore of the lake). I wonder how much of a driver in the decision making process was the money aspect after all 31 passengers., 31 refunds.
    There was a reason the military stopped using these vehicles. Their limitations are well know and documented. The best thing for these vehicles is that they should be retired from commercial use.

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    Level flotation should definitely be a requirement for these vessels. Having been a passenger on many of these, they are simply floating coffins. With present style canopies in place, there is no way a boatload of passengers can escape a sinking ship…especially if they are wearing life jackets. The Coast Guard should be bearing more responsibility for these deficiencies.

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