Last Thursday, a duck boat tour of Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri ended in tragedy. The boat, owned by Ride the Ducks, capsized when a sudden storm generated choppy waters and 65 mph winds. Of the 31 passengers, only 14 survived. One of the survivors spoke up about her experience. She's claiming that the captain of the vessel told passengers not to "worry" about using the life jackets—even as the waters on the lake got progressively choppier. Tia spoke to reporters and alleged the following: "The captain had told us, 'Don't worry about grabbing the life jackets, you won't need them.' So nobody grabbed them because we listened to the captain as he told us the safety [rules]...when it was time to grab them, it was too late."
"I believe that a lot of people could have been spared," she added.
Tia was with 11 family members aboard the duck boat that evening—her husband, 3 children, sister-in-law, 2 nephews, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and uncle were also on the tour. Only 2 of them survived: Tia and her 13-year-old nephew.
"When that boat is found, all those life jackets are going to be there," she said. "...he told us we don't need them."
Not the First Duck Boat Accident
In a previous blog this weekend, we reported that Ride the Ducks has been the defendant in multiple lawsuits in fatal duck boat accidents in the last few years—and very little has changed regarding the safety of these "sinking coffins." Nearly two decades ago, there was an eerily similar accident involving a duck boat in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The boat suddenly sank, killing 13 people—including 3 children.
After the incident, the NTSB recommended that all duck boats have the canopies removed for safer escape in case of the emergency. In nearly 20 years, almost nothing has changed. In fact, the design of duck boats (first used in WWII for supply transport) has hardly changed in 70 years. Some duck boat accident lawyers believe that's the problem—these boats were never designed as tourist attractions. And they haven't really been retrofitted to operate safely as a tourist attraction either.
Our hearts go out to Tia, the survivors, and their families. We hope the NTSB conducts a thorough and conclusive investigation.