Federal investigators said the duck boat that sank in Branson, Missouri, killing 17 people July 19, was plying Lake Table Rock in weather conditions similar to those of a hurricane, with winds of 73 mph and waves potentially cresting at 6 feet.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is leading the investigation of the deadly capsizing, said in a press conference Saturday that one major aspect of the probe is focused on how Ride the Ducks Branson, the company that owns and operates the amphibious boats, uses weather information.
Various reports indicate that two duck boat tours went into the lake at least 20 minutes after warnings of severe weather for the area were issued.
“We’re investigating and trying to understand how Ride the Ducks used weather information,” NTSB investigator Earl Weener told the press. “That information was available in the offices from what we understand. We want to understand how that information was passed on to people who made the decisions to go out at that time.”
Ride the Ducks Branson is cooperating with the federal probe and provided the NTSB with another duck boat that investigators could use to see how the vessel was operated and how passengers might have been arranged.
The NTSB is also seeking a number of documents from the boat tour company, including inspections records, various certifications, maintenance reports, training records, and any records of past safety incidents.
Mr. Weener told the press that divers recovered the duck boat’s data recorder and had obtained video surveillance of the capsizing and sinking from other boats in the vicinity at the time.
More than 40 people have died in duck boat accidents and sinkings in the U.S. and Canada since 1999, including the 17 who died in Branson.