The death toll in the Branson duck accident has risen to 17, according to Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader. The victims range in age from young children to the elderly, according to Sgt. Jason Pace of the Missouri Highway Patrol. The youngest victim is to believed to be a child around 1 year old and the oldest, a person in their 70s. The names of the victims have not yet been released.
Pace confirmed that the 12th and 13th bodies were pulled from Table Rock Lake in the overnight hours. Four additional bodies were found on Friday morning. Rader believes the victims died by drowning.
Rader said that seven people were taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital. The extent of their injuries and their current conditions are unknown.
Authorities Believe the Severe Weather Caused the Duck Boat to Capsize & Sink
On Thursday, July 19, a bad thunderstorm rolled into the Branson, Missouri, area, bringing heavy rains and high winds along with it. The “Ride the Ducks” tour had been on Table Rock Lake with 31 people onboard when the storm hit. The water was very rough and waves had been crashing over the sides of the boat, which you can see in the following video.
“The tragedy was witnessed by horrified onlookers who described waves of up to 6 feet high. Jennie Carr, who posted video on Facebook of the duck boat as it struggled in the surge, said she saw the vessel sinking into the waves, unable to move faster,” NBC News reports.
An Investigation into the Incident Has Been Launched
The Coast Guard is working with the National Transportation Safety Board in an investigation surrounding the boat’s capsizing.
“The Coast Guard inspects the duck boats. Lt. Commander Tasha Sadowicz of the Coast Guard told the Post-Dispatch that the boats are required to have life jackets. ‘They would have had them on board,’ she said, although there is no requirement that they be worn,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Ride the Ducks has released a statement following the tragedy at Table Rock Lake.
“This incident has deeply affected all of us. 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,” said Suzanne Smagala-Potts of Ride the Ducks Branson.
For more videos from the scene, click here.