“Ride the Ducks” is a duck boat company, located in Branson, Missouri. On Thursday, July 19, reports that a duck boat had capsized on Table Rock Lake near Branson surfaced. Police referred to the accident as “mass casualty incident.” It has been confirmed that the duck boat that capsized was part of the “Ride the Ducks” fleet.
While an exact cause hasn’t been determined, early reports indicate that heavy rain and winds from a passing thunderstorm affected the area at the time of the incident.
“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 six fatalities. Divers searching. Also other area damage,” the scanner audio caption on Broadcastify said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Stone County Sheriff Has Confirmed That 17 People Have Died
The Stone County Sheriff has confirmed that 17 people were killed when the boat capsized and then sunk to the bottom of Table Rock Lake.
“Sheriff Doug Rader reports the boat had 31 people on board. He tells KY3 News four of those have been transported to a hospital. Some of the 31 on board include children. … The sheriff says he does not know how many on the boat are missing. The sheriff is asking for any family missing someone to go to Branson City Hall,” KY3 reports.
The rescue and recovery mission was completed on Friday morning when the final four bodies were pulled from the water.
Several patients have been transported to CoxHealth Medical Center, but the extent of their injuries is unknown at this time.
2. It Is Believed That Severe Weather in the Area Caused the Duck Boat to Capsize
As for what might have caused the boat to capsize, police say that there was some nasty weather in the area. Very heavy rains accompanied a severe thunderstorm, and there were wind gusts of approximately 60 mph in the area at the time of the incident.
“We did have a severe thunderstorm, not sure if that is the contributing factor. There is a lot of storm debris,” Southern Stone County Fire Protection spokesman Eric Nielsen said during a press conference.
Strong winds can greatly impact smaller water vessels.
“According to the most recent Coast Guard accident data, nearly three percent of all recreational boating accidents are directly related to severe weather conditions that can quickly overwhelm smaller craft. Some thunderstorms, for example, create microbursts – intense downdrafts over an area a half-mile to three miles wide capable of producing wind gusts from 60 mph to more than 100 mph. Microbursts can capsize a small boat or blow a passenger overboard,” according to the United States Coast Guard’s Boating Safety.
3. ‘Ride the Ducks’ Is a Major Tourist Attraction in Branson
“Ride the Ducks” provides passengers a unique look at the various Missourian landscapes from land to river.
“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 splashdown and cruise Table Rock Lake. Drive the duck a little if you want. Quack along with the captain and the music aboard this 70-minute Ozark adventure,” reads the description on the company’s website.
The company offers a Table Rock Lake adventure, amongst other experiences.
“Depart from Duck Central. Tour the famous Branson strip. Explore military vehicle history at the base of Baird Mountain. Hang on as the Duck climbs Baird Mountain for an exclusive view; then it’s time to Splashdown into Table Rock Lake,” reads the Table Rock Lake description. Tickets for this particular boat ride cost around $25.00.
Below is a video of a “Ride the Ducks” tour in Brandon, taken in 2012. In the video, you can see the duck boat go from land to sea.
4. The Parent Company of ‘Ride the Ducks’ Says It Recently Acquired the Duck
A spokesperson for “Ride the Ducks” issued a statement about Thursday night’s duck boat incident.
“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,” Suzanne Smagala-Potts of Ride the Ducks Branson said, according to NBC News.
Shortly after the incident was reported, CNN confirmed that “a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, the parent company of Ride the Ducks Branson, said the company is in contact with their employees at the scene.”
According to CNN, Ripley Entertainment also said “it recently acquired the vessel involved in the incident.” Winds gusted up to 63 miles per hour, CNN reported.
5. ‘Ride the Ducks’ Seattle Made Headlines Last Month, 2 Years After a Crash Led to Multiple Lawsuits
A “Ride the Ducks” company in Seattle, Washington, made headlines last month after 12 victims from a 2015 duck boat crash were awarded more than $2.3 million. The crash happened on the Aurora Avenue Bridge, and had been filled with college students at the time, according to K5 News.
Five people lost their lives and dozens more were injured.
It it unknown if the Seattle-based company is owned by the same people as “Ride the Ducks” in Branson. “Ride the Ducks of Seattle is independently owned and operated,” reads the company’s website. However, the logos for both companies appear to be the same.