The Coast Guard wants duck boat operators to remove canopies, side curtains and overhead framing to help passengers and crew escape in an emergency.
The recommendation issued Wednesday is based on preliminary findings in the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) looking into a duck boat sinking that killed 17 people near Branson, Mo., in 2018 — the deadliest duck boat accident ever. The Coast Guard also said it will consider further safety measures for duck boats at the end of the MBI.
The advisory (Marine Safety Information Bulletin 15-20, “Recommendation for DUKW Passenger Vessel Canopy Removal”), which is voluntary, is similar to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation late last year urging the Coast Guard to require canopy removal as well as sufficient reserve buoyancy for the amphibious passenger vessels.
The Coast Guard said “owners and operators opting to remove canopies” should have the service do an inspection and stability review before resuming operations.
The NTSB is scheduled to discuss the probable cause of the accident at a virtual board meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday (April 28). (Webcast: http://ntsb.windrosemedia.com/)
The vessel, Stretch Duck 7, was carrying 29 passengers and two crewmembers for what was usually a 20-minute ride on Table Rock Lake on July 19, 2018, when a strong thunderstorm swept through with winds over 70 mph.
The NTSB has said the lake was under a severe thunderstorm warning issued about half an hour before the duck boat entered the water.
After 13 people died in 1999 in the duck boat Miss Majestic accident in Hot Springs, Ark., the NTSB issued a number of duck boat safety recommendations to the Coast Guard including requiring the vessels to have enough reserve buoyancy to float even if flooded. If not, they should install new canopies that don’t restrict escape. And if canopies have been removed and reserve buoyancy is inadequate, passengers should be required to don life jackets before leaving the dock.
In response, the Coast Guard said it issued Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circular (NVIC) 1-01 “which laid out an equivalent level of safety” to other Subchapter T vessels for items such as modification to the side curtains.
“Lives could have been saved, and the Stretch Duck 7 accident could have been prevented had previously issued safety recommendations been implemented,” NTSB chairman Robert L. Sumwalt, said in a statement about the agency’s most recent suggestions.
The NTSB has no enforcement power, though it does have the power of persuasion.