Coast Guard sees ‘misconduct, negligence’ in duck boat sinking

Coast Guard investigators found evidence that “misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties” of the captain contributed to the deaths of 17 people when an amphibious duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake, Mo., July 19, federal prosecutors say in court papers.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion Wednesday with the federal court in Kansas City, Mo., seeking to delay the discovery process in civil lawsuits that have been filed in connection with the deadly sinking, the Associated Press reported. The process involves lawyers sharing documents and information, and prosecutors said that should be delayed until the criminal investigation is completed.

Lawyers involved in the civil cases – including for defendants Ride the Ducks Branson, its captain, and its corporate parent Ripley Entertainment – are not entitled to know the substance of the government’s case while the criminal investigation is ongoing, prosecutors contend.

The boat Stretch Duck 7 was carrying 29 passengers and two crew members for what was usually a 20-minute ride on the lake near tourist hub Branson, Mo., when a powerful thunderstorm swept across with winds exceeding 70 mph.

The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident. NTSB officials have said Table Rock Lake was under a severe thunderstorm warning that had been issued about half an hour before the duck boat entered the lake that evening.

Video recordings recovered from Stretch Duck 7 showed an unidentified person on the boat before it departed telling the crew to take passengers on the lake portion of the tour first, according to the NTSB.

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.


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    The Coast Guard doesn’t need to be the agency investigating this terrible tragedy. The Coast Guard should be the ones being investigated. Every one of those boats has to be inspected and APPROVED by the Coast Guard before they can be operated. They approve all aspects of the design, including the death trap canopy and the storage method for those foam chunks called life preservers. Someone needs to kick some Coast Guard ass so they can change their approval standards.

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      The vessels are inspected to Federal law. Laws passed by Congress, not Coast Guard. Each item inspected is approved because it meets US federal code. Eventually, Congress will figure out that the DUKWs are unsafe and will change the safety standards, but these things take time and tragedies like this for people to wake up, unfortunately. You should write to your representative, as more people should if you want the laws changed. With big tourist businesses like this it is difficult to have policies changed, as there will be a large lobby/push to prove that the DUKWs are, in fact, very safe. It’s a problem that will persist until more people wake up.

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    I won’t comment on the material condition of the vessel, whether it was adequately safe or not, but I will say, that no matter how excellent the material condition of a vessel, at the end of the day, human stupidity (i.e., questionable decision making) sometimes trumps all.

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