At least 13 people dead as packed sightseeing duck boat capsizes in Missouri’s Ozarks on Thursday night
A duck boat packed with dozens of tourists in Missouri’s Ozarks capsized amid rough weather Thursday night, killing 13 people, according to local reports and authorities.
First responders with the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District rushed to Table Rock Lake around 7 p.m. local time to search for survivors after a “Ride the Ducks” sightseeing vessel sank with 31 passengers aboard.
The State Highway Patrol said 13 people have died. Fourteen people survived, including seven who were injured when the boat went down, state police said.
Thirteen bodies had been recovered by early Friday morning, while the seven injured people, including three children, were rushed to CoxHealth in the nearby city of Branson, according to the hospital. Two of the victims were in critical condition.
The names of the dead were not immediately released.
The vessel belongs to the Branson-based tour company known for ferrying tourists on a 70-minute ride through the reservoir, about 8 miles north of the Arkansas border.
The cause of the sinking was not immediately known though heavy winds whipped up white-capped waves shortly before the vessel sank, according to video.
The footage, taken from the Branson Belle Showboat, shows a pair of duck boats struggling to navigate a gauntlet of waves during the brunt of the storm. One boat managed to power through while the other repeatedly rocked back and forth in the waves.
First responders and police attend to victims after the incident
The driver of the Ride the Ducks boat died, but the captain survived, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said.
Divers located the vessel, which came to rest on its wheels on the lakebed, and authorities planned to recover it later Friday.
The boat sank in 40 feet (12 meters) of water and then rolled on its wheels into a deeper area with 80 feet (25 meters) of water. Investigators had no information about whether passengers were wearing life jackets or whether they were stowed onboard, the sheriff said.
Rescued tourists are transported by ambulance
National Weather Service meteorologists in Tulsa, Okla., warned of thunderstorms brewing in the region with the “potential for damaging winds.”
Named for their ability to travel on land and in water, duck boats have been involved in other deadly incidents in the past. Five college students were killed in 2015 in Seattle when a duck boat collided with a bus. Thirteen people died in 1999 when a boat sank near Hot Springs, Arkansas, after the vessel took on an uncontrollable amount of water. The boat sank in less than seven minutes.
The converted military vessels were designed to land soldiers from sea to soil during World War II but dozens of the boats are still operational and used to transport tourists in coastal destinations, such as Seattle and Boston.
Nearly two decades ago, the National Transportation Safety Board expressed concerns that the boats were prone to flooding and “the vulnerability to sinking” and urged operators to outfit the transports with watertight bulkheads and install flotation materials in the hull.
It’s unclear if the number of passengers played a role in the sinking. Citing a War Department Technical Manual, the National Transportation Safety Board said the U.S. Army-built supply vehicles could hold up to 5,000 pounds of cargo.
“No reference was made to passenger capacity or accommodations,” according to the agency’s safety recommendation in 2000.