SEVERE WX : Excessive Heat Warning View Alerts

Duck boat operator, captains now subject of federal criminal investigation

A federal criminal investigation into a deadly duck boat sinking on a Missouri lake was initiated after the ...

Posted: Aug 30, 2018 8:01 AM
Updated: Aug 30, 2018 8:01 AM

A federal criminal investigation into a deadly duck boat sinking on a Missouri lake was initiated after the US Coast Guard determined the 17 deaths resulted from "misconduct, negligence or inattention to the duties" by the captain of the duck boat, according to a court document filed Wednesday.

The new investigation also is looking at another duck boat captain and officials at the company that operates the tourist ride, the court document says.

Automotive industry

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal investigations

Criminal law

Investigations

Law and legal system

Marine transportation

Marine vessels

Midwestern United States

Missouri

Motor vehicles

North America

Severe weather

The Americas

Thunderstorms

Tourism

Transportation and warehousing

Travel and tourism

United States

Weather

There are several investigations into the July 19 incident, including the state of Missouri, which is also looking into criminal liability, and the National Transportation Safety Board, which is trying to determine what caused the sinking.

Survivors of some of the people who died are, in four cases, suing Ripley Entertainment, which runs the duck boat tours called Ride the Ducks Branson.

On Wednesday, the US government attached a motion to the civil cases, asking that a court rule that federal investigators be allowed first to talk to the pertinent witnesses and participants in the case.

"To avoid prejudice to its criminal investigation and any directly related criminal prosecution, the Government seeks a stay of discovery in this action until its criminal investigation and any directly related criminal proceedings are resolved," the motion said.

The motion says the Coast Guard notified the US Attorney's Office of its preliminary probable cause determination on August 13.

That inquiry determined the deaths "resulted from the misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties of the captain of the vessel at the time of the sinking, which is a violation of federal criminal law," according to the court document.

The US attorney's investigation is in its early stages and "several agents/employees/officers of Ripley already have been notified that they are subjects and/or targets," the motion says.

A statement late Wednesday from Ripley declined to comment on the motion because of the ongoing investigation, but said, "We continue to fully cooperate with federal and state authorities, including the NTSB. We are providing all documentation and materials requested in the case and are complying with all hearing procedures."

The court document also indicates investigators want to talk to the captain of another duck boat that made it back to shore as a storm roiled the water of Table Rock Lake near Branson and swamped the other craft. That duck boat captain may have broken federal law, the Coast Guard said, by negligently operating the vessel and putting people's lives at risk, the document says.

CNN reached out to both captains on Wednesday but didn't get an immediate reply from either.

Video showed storm swamp boat

The first 911 call for the duck boat sinking came at 7:09 p.m.

According to weather data, a severe thunderstorm traveled hundreds of miles, prompting severe-weather alerts as it moved along, before it hit the lake.

Counties to the northwest of the Branson area were issued thunderstorm warnings at 5:45 p.m. The Branson area was placed under a severe thunderstorm warning shortly after 6:30 p.m.

A woman who was on the nearby Showboat Branson Belle, a riverboat docked near the sinking ship, recorded video of the duck boat sinking.

Her video shows at least three vessels on the lake, including the two Ride the Ducks boats rocking and tilting to the side as ripples turned into massive waves.

Strong winds whipped waves head-on onto the boats.

Duck boats' long history

Duck boats are amphibious vessels that travel on both land and water, and are popular among tourists in major cities. The boats' history dates to World War II, when such vessels were used because of their versatility.

In Branson, they are driven along city streets for part of the tour before the driver hands off to a captain who uses a ramp to enter the lake.

The driver of the duck boat was killed in the sinking. Fourteen people survived.

Branson, a popular family vacation destination, is about 200 miles southeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 101050

Reported Deaths: 3895
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles487612201
Riverside7139303
San Diego6882249
Orange5646136
San Bernardino4567176
Alameda304993
Santa Clara2688140
San Francisco240840
San Mateo196382
Kern194136
Tulare179679
Santa Barbara160412
Fresno153526
Contra Costa137537
Imperial135224
Sacramento131956
Ventura101732
San Joaquin77133
Kings6983
Stanislaus67028
Sonoma5244
Solano49920
Monterey4298
Marin42014
Merced2737
San Luis Obispo2631
Santa Cruz2052
Yolo20022
Placer1949
Napa1093
Humboldt982
Madera902
El Dorado800
San Benito762
Sutter422
Nevada411
Butte400
Del Norte400
Shasta374
Mono351
Yuba281
Mendocino230
Lake190
Inyo191
Mariposa161
Calaveras150
Glenn130
Amador100
Siskiyou61
Colusa50
Tuolumne40
Plumas40
Lassen40
Tehama41
Alpine20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 103° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Oroville
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 104° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 74°
Paradise
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 72°
Chester
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 52°
Red Bluff
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 103° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 71°
Willows
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 107° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
The Excessive Heat Warning will expire on Thursday evening, but we'll stay hot on Friday. There's a chance for active weather as early as Friday night, and a very good chance for active weather on Saturday. We'll also be much cooler this weekend.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events