By: Brian Evans
On Thursday evening, a ‘Ride the Ducks’ boat capsized on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri during a rough storm.
It has been reported that the Duck boat as of noon on Friday had 14 survivors, 7 of the survivors being treated in the local hospital including the boats captain. Sadly, 17 of the passengers died including the driver, who’s ages range from 1 to 70 years old. Four passengers are still missing, as the search continues. Also, 9 of the 17 fatalities were all from one family!
The Duck boats are known as DUKW vehicles, are built with wheels so they can navigate water and land. They were popularized as landing vessels in World War II. Today duck boats are primarily used for sightseeing in not only Branson, but throughout the United states.
Although the boats were built for both land and water, Thursday the ‘Ride the Duck’ boat capsized on Table Rock Lake around 7pm due to a quick-moving thunderstorm that entered the area. The storm brought in heavy rains, 63 mph winds, and reportedly 6 foot waves.
Passengers on the nearby Branson Belle Showboat caught the horror, as the Ducks fought to stay afloat in the storm. CBS News detailed the horror… (VIDEO)
One of the survivors who lost nearly her entire family, with 9 family members perishing in the incident claimed that the vessel’s captain told passengers that wearing life jackets wasn’t necessary.
Tia Coleman told Fox 59 that nine of her family members died in the incident that officials have said killed a total of 17 people.
“My heart is very heavy. Out of 11 of us, only two of us surviving – that’s me and my nephew,” Coleman told the outlet. “I lost all my children, my brother-in-law.”
Tia Coleman, Survivor who lost 9 family members
Coleman claimed that before the boat hit stormy weather on Table Rock Lake and ultimately sank, that the boat’s captain said passengers didn’t need to “worry about grabbing the life jackets – you won’t need them.” But when the situation changed and life jackets were needed, she reportedly said “it was too late.”
“I believe that a lot of people could have been spared.”
Tia Coleman, survivor
Sadly, this is not the first incident with Duck Boats, which has resulted in deaths. In 1999, the Miss Majestic duck boat rapidly sank to the bottom of Lake Hamilton in Arkansas, which resulted in the drowning 13 of its 21 passengers. Investigators said that they found that the in that incident, they found seven passengers that were killed, pinned against the underside of the canopy. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the Arkansas incident and arrived at this conclusion: “Contributing to the high loss of life was a continuous canopy roof that entrapped passengers within the sinking vehicle.”
Thursday’s accident involved a Ride the Ducks boat, covered with an overhead roof or canopy, which proved to be no match against 3-foot waves and 63 mile-per-hour winds resulting in its sinking.
Experts claim that canopies like the one on the Branson Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle, which ride low to the water, make it difficult for passengers to escape if the vessel sinks below the surface. Furthermore, life vests can actually become more of a danger than help, as they will push you forcefully against the canopy, making escape virtually impossible. On the other hand, not wearing a life vest in such turbulent water leaves even the most experienced swimmers in danger of drowning. In other words, it is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. However, according to new reports about Ride the Ducks operations in Branson passed inspection in February, but there were some concerns. They were concerned that if the motor hit rough waters, it would flood, resulting in the engine stalling, leaving the boat stranded in the lake, and the pumps unable to pump out water.
As a result of other incidents involving amphibious vehicles like the one used at Branson’s ‘Ride the Ducks’, the NTSB recommended that the Coast Guard require amphibious passenger vehicles to be equipped with a reserve method of buoyancy so vehicles would remain afloat in the event of flooding. Until that was done, the NTSB said, operators should remove the canopies or install a style that doesn’t restrict horizontal or vertical escape by passengers if the vehicle sinks. On vehicles whose canopies have been removed and don’t yet have adequate backup buoyancy, the NTSB said, all passengers should be required to wear life jackets. However, new reports from Branson indicate that as the boat was sinking to the bottom of the lake, someone released the canopy, permitting some of the passengers, and the captain to swim to the surface. Unfortunately, it appears that nobody, or very few passengers, had put the life jackets on themselves.
Meanwhile, as news of the Branson tragedy spread, leaders from around the country expressed their prayers, sympathies, and condolences. For example, President Trump expressed on Friday morning…
My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri. Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!
President Donald J. Trump
Meanwhile, the search has been tedious and difficult, as the lake is 229 feet deep, and has a surface area of 43,100 acres. The Duck boat sank to the floor of the lake, and hit the bottom at around 40 feet, and slid down the uneven floor of the lake for another 40 feet, until it settled at the bottom, reaching a depth of 80 feet. Authorities and search teams blocked off the area around the incident, as they are continuing to work to find the final four missing passengers. In the meantime, please pray for those missing, those injured, those who died, the families, the rescuers, and everyone involved in this horrible tragedy.