A massive rescue effort was launched at Table Rock Lake after a tourist duck boat carrying more than 30 people capsized, possibly due to high winds, taking the lives of 17 people, including some children. You can see videos and photos that emerged from the scene throughout this article. Be aware that some are disturbing.
Robert “Bob” Williams was the first victim identified in the “Ride the Ducks” tragedy. According to CNN, Williams was the driver of the boat. He was 73-years-old. You can read tributes to the victims here. They also include a heroic grandmother credited with saving her granddaughter and a couple celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.
The sunset morphed into darkness, but the rescuers were still searching for missing people in the water, meaning the casualty count could still rise. By midnight, they had called off the search for the night with five people still missing. Two of those bodies were then discovered, but authorities then changed the count of those missing and said four people were still missing by the morning of July 20, 2018. However, authorities now say all victims have been accounted for.
When morning broke, authorities also announced that the dead range in age from 1 to 70, with two people in the hospital in critical condition. The 31 people on the Ride the Ducks boat included two crew members, authorities said. The boat was trying to return to shore when the storm lashed it with strong water. The owner, Jim Patterson, told CNN the waters were calm when the duck went out, and the storm hit as it came back. “We’re absolutely devastated,” he said.
Here’s what you need to know:
Two Videos Were Taken From a Nearby Boat & One Shows the Duck Start to Sink
Two videos emerged on Facebook that were taken by a person in another boat. Be forewarned that they are disturbing as one shows the boat become overcome by rough waters and start to sink. You can watch the first video above.
Here’s the second video:
Here’s a shorter version of the video on YouTube.
This video compilation also emerged.
Jennie Carr, who filmed the videos from the other boat, spoke out on the Today Show:
The Stone County sheriff said in a news conference that the victims perished from drowning. The casualty count later grew to 17. Seven other people were taken to the hospital. “This is going to be an all night and into tomorrow, we’re still going to be working on this,” the sheriff said.
One dive team was in the water as the sheriff spoke late in the evening hours of July 19, 2018, and another dive team was on the way. Branson City Hall is where family members should go for information, he said. “I believe it was caused by the weather,” the sheriff added of the tragedy. “It capsized and sank…The duck is still in the water… it sank.”
A Sheriff’s Deputy Helped Rescue People on the Downed Duck
There was a sheriff’s deputy on the boat as security who was immediately in the water rescuing people, according to the sheriff. “It’s going to be a challenging night,” the sheriff said. According to CNN, Ripley Entertainment, “the parent company of Ride the Ducks Branson, said it recently acquired the vessel involved in the incident.” Winds gusted up to 63 miles per hour, CNN reported.
The boat is reportedly underwater and can’t be seen from the surface.
The sheriff said in the news conference that seven other people were taken to the hospital, and authorities were still searching for more victims in the water, but they did not say how many people were still missing at first.
The first video to emerge from the scene was posted by the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District, the lead response agency to the scene of the tragedy. It shows an eerily idyllic view of the lake as well as rescue officers at the scene. Authorities say 31 people were on the duck. The coroner has been called out for people who died.
You can see the Southern Stone County FPD video here:
Here’s more video from the scene:
“Need a water rescue. Will be north of the show boats. Will be a duck that has capsized. We have approximately 30 individuals in the water,” a dispatcher says in the early scanner audio of the tragedy. Here’s the early scanner audio:
Here’s more dispatch audio:
There’s a “duck with people in the water,” an officer also says in the audio. The situation was called a “water rescue on Table Rock.” An officer says, “It’s out on the lake. It’s flipped over, and there’s 30 people in the water.” At the same time, officers were dealing with heavy rains and power lines down.
The Casualty Count Grew as the Night Progressed
Authorities are classifying the tragedy as a “mass casualty incident.”
Southern Stone Fire, which is the lead agency responding to the scene, wrote, “Crews from multiple agencies are on scene of an MCI ‘Mass Casualty Incident’ ‘tourist type boat involved’ this is on Table Rock Lake, Stone County, Branson Missouri. Taney County assisting. Several patients transported to area hospital. Divers on scene. Staging at Branson Belle. However the Branson Belle is not involved. More info to follow.”
The department also confirmed there were more than 20 people on the boat, writing on Facebook, “*Boat Dock Emergency/Branson Belle Dock* reported 20+ occupants. Full Response from multiple agencies responding. 7:12pm.”
The cause was reported to be major wind in radio scanner traffic, although this was not yet confirmed by authorities. You can listen to live scanner audio here.
“Major Wind causes major incident on Table Rock Lake, Branson Ride the Ducks Capsized 30 people in the water, Other Boater Problems, Showboat Branson Bell Staging Area and State Park over 6 fatalities, Divers Searching. Also other area damage,” the scanner audio caption on Broadcastify said. However, the reports of fatalities are not yet confirmed. Be aware that conflicting information often emerges in the early stages of breaking tragedies.
The website for Ride the Ducks reads, “Ride through the scenic Ozarks on our amphibian Duck that goes right from land into the river. Climb to the top of the Mountain, discover the history behind some of America’s unique military vehicles then cruise Table Rock Lake. Quack along with the captain and the music aboard this 70-minute Ozark adventure.” Despite media reports, authorities have not yet confirmed the company that owns the affected boat, however.
The company posted a statement on its website that read: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride The Ducks Branson. This incident has deeply affected all of us. Words cannot convey how profoundly our hearts are breaking. We will continue to do all we can to assist the families who were involved and the authorities as they continue with the search and rescue. The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority. Ride the Ducks will be closed for business while we support the investigation, and to allow time to grieve for the families and the community. Thank you for your support, and we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this time.”
The City of Branson Offered Prayers for Those Involved
The City of Branson confirmed that there was an incident. “We are aware of an incident that happened tonight on Table Rock Lake, in Stone County. While the incident did not occur in Branson, we are hoping and praying for all involved. All questions should be directed to the Missouri Highway Patrol or the Stone County Sheriff’s Dpt.,” the city wrote on Twitter on the evening of July 19, 2018.
Southern Stone Fire also reported on Twitter, “*Boat Dock Emergency/Branson Belle Dock* reported 20+ occupants. Full Response from multiple agencies responding. 7:12pm.” The page then clarified: “crews are on scene and assessing the incident. This incident does not involve the Branson Belle. This is the staging area only.”
The Ride the Ducks boat is a major tourist attraction in Branson.
According to Fox 5, “Fox 5 received reports of possible casualties at the ‘Ride the Ducks’ boat on Table Rock.” The television station added, “Multiple agencies began working just after 7pm this evening to rescue twenty or more occupants were reportedly thrown into the lake when the boat capsized.”
This article is being updated as more information is learned about the incident.