A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board said the duck boat that sank on Table Rock Lake last month was in 15 feet of water amid an evening storm that produced winds in excess of 70 miles per hour.
The NTSB report on Tuesday said the duck boat eventually came to rest on the lake floor 70 feet below the surface in the July 19 incident that killed 17 of the 31 people on board.
The NTSB, which is the lead investigator of the incident, reached no conclusions in its preliminary report and leaves a number of questions outstanding, including:
- Who told the boat’s captain to take the boat on the water, even as the National Weather Service indicated that a severe storm was approaching the lake?
- Why weren’t life jackets used?
- What safety features, if any, were adopted on the Table Rock Lake duck boat in the years since a 2002 report by the NTSB included several recommendations to improve the safety of the vehicles?
There was no timetable listed for a final report from the NTSB. The Missouri Highway Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Weather Service are also parties to the investigation. The Missouri attorney general also has an open criminal investigation into possible violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
Tuesday’s NTSB report said it has gathered a video recording device from the boat, as well as a data card and other electronic devices like cell phones that were recovered from the scene. The NTSB has also interviewed 33 people, including witnesses, vessel operators, inspectors and officials with Ride the Ducks Branson, which operated the duck boat.
An earlier NTSB report on the incident provided a timeline of events leading up to the sinking of the duck boat, which revealed that the vessel entered the water 20 minutes after the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area. It also noted that the captain of the duck boat checked the weather before the tour started and that the tour began on water when it usually begins on land.
A Coast Guard report out last week said that duck boats should not go on water when winds exceed 35 miles per hour; the storm on July 19 produced winds more than twice that of the Coast Guard’s threshold for the duck boats.
So far, three lawsuits have been filed against companies behind the Ride the Ducks operation, alleging that the companies were negligent when they started the Table Rock Lake tour as a storm was approaching and for not adopting safety standards recommended after earlier duck boat incidents.