By Skylar Haines

A fatal duck boat accident in Missouri on Thursday night during a thunderstorm left 17 people dead, including children. The boat had 31 people on board– 29 passengers and 2 crew members– when it sank into the lake. Seven people went to the hospital, one of them with critical injuries. The boat’s captain survived, but the driver did not.

 

The accident now marks one of the biggest disasters at a US tourist destination in recent history. Videos captured by onlookers have emerged on social media, showing the hull of the boat plunging into rough waters with storming skies above. “It was having problems through the wind,” Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader explained to reporters  at a news conference Thursday night. “They were coming back towards land. There was actually two duck [boats]. The first one made it out. The second one did it.”

 

Gusts of up to 70 or 80 miles per hour created fierce waves at the time of the incident. Jim Pattison Jr., president of the ‘Ride the Ducks Branson’ parent company, said the strong winds “came out of nowhere.” The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area hours before the boat hit the water. The Sheriff told reporters that he believes the boat sank due to weather, but exactly what happened remains unknown or where the miscommunication may have been. When questioned about possible operation or design mistakes playing a role, Rader declined to answer. “It’s going to take time to know the details of everything that occured,” the Governor said at the news briefing today. “Until that investigation is completed, I don’t think it’s my place or anyone else’s place to speculate all the things that could have happened or why they happened.” Tia Coleman, an Indiana woman who lost 9 members of her family in the accident, revealed that when they reached the water, the captain of the boat told them, “Don’t worry about grabbing the life jackets, you won’t need them”.

 

Boston has had several duck boat incidents this summer, and Missouri’s tragedy has re-sparked the safety discussions. “Boston Duck Tours” claims it always monitors weather at its locations. “We do not allow our ducks to go into the Charles River if there is lightning in the area or if conditions are forecasted to exceed our operating parameters set by the US Coast Guard.”, said Bob Schwartz, director of marketing and sales for the touring company to WCVB News. Schwartz also shared that they do not allow tours to operate WHEN winds EXCEED 25 knots or waves are over 1 foot. “The safety of our guests and our employees is our No. 1 priority and we will continue to work closely with our partners at the US Coast Guard, Department of Public Utilities, Boston Hackney Division, and Department of Transportation to ensure we maintain these safety standards.”

 

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