Seventeen dead in US tourist boat tragedy

Stretch Duck 07, the 10-metre-long amphibious vessel that sank in rough weather on July 19th at Table Rock Lake, Branson, Missouri, leading to the deaths of 17 people, was built in 1944, according to the US Coast Guard. DUKW boats, commonly called Ducks, were built to deliver cargo quickly from ships at sea directly to the shore, driving onto the beach. There are roughly 22 of the boats operating in Missouri, according to Lt. Tasha Sadowicz, spokeswoman for the USCG regional office in St Louis. Although Missouri is a landlocked state, and the amphibious vehicle operates on both land and water, the USCG has regulatory authority over small commercial vessels in federal waterways, which includes Table Rock Lake, a large reservoir outside the town of Branson, Missouri.

Stretch Duck 07 was inspected yearly and its last inspection was in February, when it showed no deficiencies.

Nine people from one family were among the17 who died. The ages of the dead ranged from one year to 70 years old. The sinking of the vehicle was one of the deadliest incidents at a US tourist destination in recent history. The vessel sank to 40ft before rolling to a depth of 80ft.

The vessel began taking on water shortly before 19:00 local time on Thursday. Video footage from the shore showed two duck boats struggling through choppy waters and spray. One of the boats made it to shore, but the other was driven back by the wind and eventually sank. The captain was among those who survived. He is now in a hospital.

Sheriff Rader’s office on Friday referred questions about the incident to Ripley Entertainment Inc, which owns the duck tour business.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Linderberg told the Springfield News-Leader newspaper that winds reaching 63mph were recorded at Branson airport near the time of the incident. “We had a line of very strong thunderstorms that caused 74 mph winds here in Springfield,” he told the newspaper, noting that winds were likely stronger on the lake. A weather warning apparently was in place.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sent investigators to the scene.