The captain of World War II-era duck boat Stretch Duck #7, along with two other employees at the company Ride the Ducks Branson, has been charged as a result of events leading up to the sinking of the vessel on Table Rock Lake, Branson, Missouri in July 2018. There were 17 deaths as a result.
The Missouri attorney general’s office has announced 63 charges against Scott McKee, the boat’s Captain, Operations Supervisor Charles Baltzell and General Manager Curtis Lanham.
According to a probable cause statement the Stretch Duck #7 was under the command of McKee when it entered Table Rock Lake on July 19th 2018 during a severe thunderstorm warning. The vessel encountered severe weather and rough winds, which caused the boat to take on water and sink.
It is alleged that McKee failed to exercise his duties as a licensed Captain by entering the lake during a severe thunderstorm warning, and failed to follow policies and training by not having passengers affix flotation devices when the boat began to take on water.
Charles Baltzell as Operations Supervisor and Curtis Lanham as General Manager are alleged to have failed to communicate weather conditions and cease operations during a severe thunderstorm warning.
McKee was charged with 17 counts of First Degree Involuntary Manslaughter, a Class C Felony, five counts of First Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class A felony, and seven counts of First Degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class D felony. Baltzell and Lanham were each charged with 17 counts of First Degree Involuntary Manslaughter.
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the accident found that the operator failed to take note of a severe thunderstorm warning. The investigation also found as factors in the accident to be hazards, including fixed canopies, and the US Coast Guard’s failure to require sufficient reserve buoyancy in duck boats.