Thirteen people are dead and four remain missing after an amphibious duck boat with tourists on board sank in a heavy storm near Branson, Missouri on Thursday.
The boat, from Ride the Ducks Branson, was one of two vessels caught in a heavy storm that rolled into the area about 7 p.m. Videos posted on local media showed two boats struggling to make it to shore on Table Rock Lake amid heavy windy and choppy waters.
There were 31 people – 29 passengers and two crew members – aboard the capsized boat, according to the Stone County Sheriff’s Office. On Friday morning, the Missouri State Highway Patrol recovered two more bodies, raising the death toll to 13.
Thirteen people have been confirmed dead, including children. Four people are still missing. Fourteen survived, with seven taken to hospital. Those who died ranged in age from 1 to 70 years old, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Pace.
Divers called off the search about 11:30 p.m. on Thursday. The Missouri Highway Patrol Dive Team began working to recover the missing bodies on Friday, according to Ozarks First.
The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a team to investigate the cause of the accident, as well.
Who are the victims of the duck boat accident?
The names of the victims have not been released yet. Survivors and families members can go to the Branson City Hall to be reunited. A phone number has also been set up for information about those on board the boat – 417-337-8515.
Why did the duck boat sink?
Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader attributed the sinking to heavy winds.
The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Branson area Thursday evening. Wind speeds reached 60 mph, a weather service meteorologist in Springfield told the Associated Press.
“They were coming back to land. There were actually two ducks. The first one made it out and the second one didn’t,” he said.
Video posted to the Springfield News-Leader showed the two boats struggling to make it to shore in heavy wind and waves. Onlooker Jennie P. Carr, who was on the Branson Belle Showboat as people had dinner, recorded footage of the boat’s nose sinking below the water. The camera turned away before the boat sank.
“It got closer to us on the Showboat and you could see water going into the boat. I did see he was starting to sink. It was leaning to the right,” she told the newspaper.
She said the boat was out of sight when it sank.
What is the duck boat operator saying?
On Friday morning the operators’ website was replaced by an image of a black ribbon, with a statement reading: “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.”
It continued, “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.”
Have duck boats sunk before?
In 1999, a duck boat on Lake Hamilton, Arkansas, sank drowning 13 of its 21 passengers. After that incident, the National Transportation Safety Board said the roof canopy of the boat was to blame, after finding four of the victims pinned against the roof at the bottom of the lake. Three more were also trapped inside the boat.
Sheriff’s deputy helped rescue duck boat passengers
Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said an off duty sheriff’s deputy working on security for the boat company had helped to rescue people after the accident. “There was actually a deputy on the boat. He was in the water rescuing people,” Rader said.
What is a duck boat?
A duck boat is the colloquial name for an amphibious vehicle that can operate on land and in the water. The vehicles are based off a military design first used during World War II. They are now a common vehicle in lake tours around the world.
Ride The Ducks Branson was acquired by entertainment giant Ripley in December 2017.