Officials are taking to social media following news out of the Ozarks that 17 people died when a duck boat capsized on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, on Thursday during severe weather.
U.S. senators from Missouri, Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, say their offices are in contact with the National Transportation Safety Board, which has been sent to Branson to investigate the events that led to the amphibious duck boat to sink to the bottom of the lake Thursday night.
“Our hearts are heavy for those families involved in the tragedy that struck in Branson last night,” McCaskill said in a statement Friday. “Sincere thanks to the first responders and those on the scene helping in the search and rescue.”
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Blunt is expected to arrive in Branson later Friday, according to a statement from his office. The Republican senator from southwest Missouri says he’s been in contact with local, state and federal officials.
“I am deeply saddened by the tragedy at Table Rock Lake,” Blunt said in a statement. “My prayers are with the families and friends who lost their loved ones. I thank the first responders and members of the community who have assisted in the response and recovery effort.”
Meanwhile, as part of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board is asking witnesses to send “video or photos” from the fatal accident to its agency.
Also on Friday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted his “deepest sympathies” to victims of the tragedy and their families.
“My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in the terrible boat accident which just took place in Missouri,” Trump said on Twitter. “Such a tragedy, such a great loss. May God be with you all!”
More than an hour after the duck boat sank Thursday night, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also took to Twitter, retweeting a news article about the rescue. He said he offered “prayers for all involved.”
By Friday morning, Parson said he was traveling to Branson to meet with law enforcement and rescue officials.
“Very sad to hear about this horrible accident — prayers for all those involved and the first responders who are assisting,” Parson wrote Thursday night.
Parson later ordered all flags at all state and government offices to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.
Lawmakers and other officials from around the state have also chimed in:
Local leaders from the Branson area, a popular spot in the state for tourists, are sharing feelings of sadness and shock.
Sheila Thomas, president and CEO of the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce, said on Twitter, “Tragedy struck last night on my beloved Table Rock Lake and my heart is hurting. Praying for the grief stricken families and the injured, and the hearts of the first responders. And thankful for prayers of others. We will make it through this time as a community by God’s grace.”
Branson Mayor Karen Best posted a tweet after 3 a.m. Friday saying community members remain “resilient” despite the loss of lives, “however, tonight we grieve.”
Herschend Family Entertainment, the company that runs and operates the nearby Showboat Branson Belle, issued a statement on its Twitter, saying that it would be suspending cruises Friday. Several people on the Branson Belle had witnessed two duck boats — including the one that sank — struggling to make it to the shore in the thrashing waves during the severe weather Thursday night.
“All of us at Herschend Family Entertainment are heartbroken about the accident that happened last evening on Ride the Ducks,” it said. “Our prayers are with the victims and the team at Ripley’s Entertainment.”