Ride The Ducks Third Mass Passenger Deaths Incident – On Thursday, July 19, 2018, two Ride The Ducks boats were doing a Table Rock Lake, Missouri excursion, near Branson, Missouri. Both vessels were operating with their removable roof canopy attached.
It had been a hot day in Branson with the temperature reaching 95 degrees at 3:45 pm. But, by 7:09 pm, a thunderstorm approaching, (see video below) had begun to cool things off, with the temperature reduced to 90 degrees, and sustained winds at 35 mph with gusts to 52 mph. At 7:25 pm, the temperature had plummeted to 72 degrees with 41 mph sustained winds and gusts to 63 mph.
Steve Lindenberg, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Springfield, Missouri, said the agency issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Branson area Thursday evening.
One duck on the lake was able to safely make it back to shore. The other was tossed on Table Rock Lake with the waves higher than the Duck could safety navigate. There were 31 people aboard at the time of the sinking.
Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader says that the first 911 call came at 7:09 reporting that a “Duck” tour boat had sunk near the Branson Belle and that there were people in the water. Rader said an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working security for the boat company helped rescue people after the accident.
Brayden Malaske from Harrah, Oklahoma was aboard the Branson Belle. He said when he boarded, it was sunny. But the storm rolled in quickly, and he noticed two Duck boats were struggling in the whitecaps.
Seventeen people were killed, fourteen people survived, including seven who were injured when the boat went down, state police said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) 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. Smagala added this was the Branson tour’s first accident in more than 40 years of operation. According to their website, Ripley bought Ride The Duck Branson Dec 12, 2017.
Jim Pattison Jr., president of Ripley Entertainment, stated during media interviews, ” . . . the boat shouldn’t have been in the water. This business has been operating for 47 years and we’ve never had an incident like this or anything close to it. To the best of our knowledge – and we don’t have a lot of information now – but it was a fast-moving storm that came out of basically nowhere is sort of the verbal analysis I’ve got,” Pattison said.
The Ride The Ducks Branson website has posted a message on their homepage, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson. This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking. We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved and the authorities as they continue with the search and rescue. The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority. Ride the Ducks will be closed for business while we support the investigation, and to allow time to grieve for the families and the community. Thank you for your support, and we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this time.”
Other Ride The Duck Mass Casualty Incidents
September 24, 2015, the 2005 DUCK 6 amphibious passenger vehicle (APV) was traveling north on the Washington State Route 99 Aurora Bridge in Seattle, Washington. At the same time, a 2009 Motor Coach Industries motorcoach was traveling south in the center lane. The DUCK 6 driver heard a loud noise at the left front of the APV; the vehicle drifted to the right and then veered left suddenly; the driver lost control of the vehicle. The APV crossed the center line into the southbound lanes and struck the motorcoach. Three other vehicles were damaged. As a result of this crash, five motorcoach passengers died. Seventy-one motorcoach and APV occupants reported injuries ranging from minor to serious.
July 27, 2010 in Philadelphia, a barge collided with the DUKW 34, an amphibious passenger vehicle, which sank in approximately 55 feet of water. There were 35 passengers and two crew members onboard the DUKW 34.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the mate operating a tugboat near Philadelphia on July 7, 2010, failed to maintain a proper lookout while towing a barge up the Delaware River. The investigation revealed that the mate was inattentive to his duties while navigating the vessel because he was distracted by his repeated use of a cell phone and lap top computer while communicating with his family who were dealing with a family emergency. Further, rather than being in the upper wheel house as expected, the tugboat mate was navigating from its lower wheel house where visibility of the channel ahead was limited.
May 1, 1999, the Miss Majestic duck boat rapidly sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton, Arkansas drowning 13 of its 21 passengers. When investigators recovered the boat, they found seven dead passengers still inside — four of them pinned against the underside of the canopy, which made the prospects for an escape unlikely.
A NTSB investigation report states. “Until reserve buoyancy retrofits are completed the Board recommended immediate actions to mitigate the danger for vessels without adequate reserve buoyancy including the removal of canopies during water operations or installation of a Coast Guard approved canopy that would not restrict the horizontal or vertical escape of passengers; closing unnecessary access plugs; reduction of through-hull penetrations to the minimum size needed for operation; and installation of independently powered electric bilge pumps. The Board made an additional recommendation that on vehicles without adequate reserve buoyancy, where canopies have been removed, the Coast Guard require passengers to wear life jackets. The Board does not recommend that passengers wear life jackets if the canopy has not been removed.”
- Ride The Duck Branson
- Weather Wunderground – Branson, MO July 19, 2018
- NTSB Determines Cause of 1999 “Duck” Boat Sinking (pdf file)
- NTSB Mate’s distraction lead to fatal 2010 “duck boat” accident (pdf file)
- Amphibious Passenger Vehicle DUCK 6 Lane Crossover Collision With Motorcoach(pdf file)
Video: Branson Belle Passenger Watches Ride the Ducks Boat Capsizes and Sinks During Severe Thunderstorm