Stretch 7 duck boat captain was monitoring storm, which struck rapidly

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) completed its initial review of video recovered from DUKW Stretch Boat , which sank on July 19th in bad weather on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, and has supplied a preliminary timeline of events leading up to the sinking.

The amphibious vessel had 29 passengers and two crewmembers aboard when it capsized and sank. One crewmember and 16 passengers died in the incident.

An SD card and a removable hard drive from the boat’s digital video recorder camera system were recovered by divers before the duck boat was salvaged, and were handed over to NTSB investigators. The boat’s cameras recorded five channels of video: four outward facing and one inward facing. Audio of varying quality was also recorded.

The NTSB’s initial review of the recorder will be subject to addition and correction  during the investigation.

The times presented were those as-recorded by the DVR and have not yet been externally verified. NTSB said that no conclusions regarding the cause of the accident should be made from the preliminary information:

At 18:27:08 the captain and driver boarded the previously empty vehicle. The driver sat in the driver’s seat and the captain sat in the side-facing seat to the right of the driver. (The captain operates the duck on water and the driver operates duck on the road.)

18:28:00. The crew was told to take the water portion of the tour first by an individual who briefly stepped onto the rear of the vehicle.

18:29:13. As the passengers were loading, the captain made a verbal reference to looking at the weather radar prior to the trip.

18:33:10. The driver stated a passenger count of 29 and shortly after the vehicle departed the terminal facility. The captain narrated the tour while the vehicle was in motion.

Commencing about 18:50, in the vicinity of the boat ramp, the captain began a safety briefing regarding the water portion of the tour. The briefing included the location of emergency exits as well as the location of the life jackets. The captain then demonstrated the use of a life jacket and pointed out the location of the life rings. The captain moved into the driver’s seat and the driver moved into the seat directly behind.

18:55:20. The captain announced to the passengers that they would be entering the water. The boat entered the water. The water appeared calm at this time.

Between about 18:56:22 and 19:00:38 the captain allowed four different children to sit in the driver’s seat, while he observed and assisted.

19:00:25. Whitecaps rapidly appeared on the water and winds increased.

19:00:42. The captain returned to the driver’s seat. The driver lowered both the port and starboard clear plastic side curtains.

19:01:01. The captain made a comment about the storm.

19:03:15. The captain made a handheld radio call, the content of which is currently unintelligible.

19:04:15. An electronic tone associated with the bilge alarm activated.

19:05:21. The captain reached downward with his right hand and the bilge alarm ceases.

19:05:40. The captain made a handheld radio call, the content of which is currently unintelligible.

In the final minutes of the recording, water occasionally splashes inside the vehicle’s passenger compartment, but the low frame rate and relatively low resolution make it very difficult to be more precise in the preliminary review.

19:07:26. An electronic tone associated with the bilge alarm activated.

19:08:27. The inward-facing recording ended, while the vehicle was still on the surface of the water.

A NTSB recorder group consisting of technical experts from the NTSB and parties to the investigation will convene at NTSB headquarters to begin validating the recorded data and developing a detailed transcript of the sequence of events.

Additional agencies participating in the NTSB’s investigation of the accident are the US Coast Guard, Missouri State Police Highway Patrol, Ride the Ducks, Branson and the National Weather Service.