Branson Duck Boat Capsized, Seventeen Deaths in Missouri

branson duck boat

Fire officials Branson duck boat accident scene.

A popular tourist amphibious duck boat capsized with more than 30 people, including children, on board in a lake near Branson, Missouri, and 17 people have died. Divers worked into the darkness, looking for missing people in the ink-black water.

Nine members of the same family died in the tragedy. Two other members of that family survived.

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. Here’s how you can donation to victims’ funds.

branson victims

FacebookSome of the Branson victims.

Here is the full list of victims:

They called off the search around midnight, with five people still missing, and children among the dead. However, the bodies of two of the missing were then found. Authorities then changed the missing count and said four people remained missing. They later said that all people were now accounted for. Of those in the hospital, at least three are under age 18. The dead range in age from 1 to 70, the Stone County Sheriff, Doug Rader, revealed.

Rader said in a news conference that the victims perished from drowning. Seven other people were taken to the hospital; two of the wounded are in critical condition, according to a local hospital. The boat carried 29 tourists and 2 crew members.

“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. Family members should go to Branson City Hall 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.”

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:


A Video Emerged That Shows the Duck Starting to Sink

Two videos emerged on Facebook that were taken by a person in another boat. They show the boat being lashed by the strong waters as it tried to return to shore. Be forewarned that they are disturbing as one of the videos shows the duck boat beginning to sink as it battles rough waters. “We are at Branson and on the showboat! A storm came in as we got on and there was 2 ducks that you ride out there and 1 went under. Not sure if everyone on it is ok,” wrote the woman who posted them on Facebook.

Here’s the first video:

Here’s the second video:

Here’s a shorter version on YouTube:

A video also emerged from another duck boat in the tumultuous waters:

A sheriff’s deputy on the boat as security was immediately in the water rescuing people, the sheriff said. “It’s going to be a challenging night,” he added.

Authorities are classifying the tragedy as a “mass casualty incident.”

The boat is reportedly underwater and can’t be seen from the surface. It carried 31 people, authorities said, and appears to have flipped over as a line of thunderstorms hit the area.

People on the nearby Branson Belle helped with the rescue, although the Branson Belle is not the boat that sank.

One local news report defined the boat as a “Ride the Ducks” boat, which is a popular tourist attraction in Branson. Southern Stone Fire, which is the lead agency responding to the scene, wrote earlier on, “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 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.”


Dispatch Audio Captured the Earliest Moments of Law Enforcement Response to the Tragedy

“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. You can listen to the early scanner audio above.

Here’s more dispatch audio:

There’s a “duck with people in the water,” an officer also says in the audio. Responding officers called the unfolding accident a “water rescue on Table Rock.” There are injuries, the scanner traffic reported.

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 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 City of Branson Says It’s ‘Praying for All 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.

The governor of Missouri also offered prayers.

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 Amphibian Duck Boats Travel From Land to Water

branson boat video

The scene in a video posted by the Southern Stone County Fire Protection

The 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.”

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.”

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.

This article is being updated as more information is learned about the incident.