The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released a preliminary report of its investigation of the July 19, 2018, duck boat accident that killed 17 at Table Lock Lake in Missouri (NTSB preliminary report: Duck boat sank in 15 feet of water on Table Rock Lake). The NTSB report found that the duck boat sank in 15 feet of water during a storm that produced winds in excess of 70 miles per hour.
The duck boat was a Stretch Duck 7, a Coast Guard-inspected passenger vessel, and Table Rock Lake is a navigable waterway. The accident was declared a major marine casualty by the United States Coast Guard, and the NTSB was named the lead federal investigative agency.
No conclusions were reached in the preliminary report and a number of significant questions remain:
- Why was the boat on the lake, despite indications from the National Weather Service that a severe storm was imminent?
- Why weren’t the passengers wearing life jackets?
- Had the Table Rock Lake duck boat adopted any of the NTSB’s previous safety recommendations?
A number of electronic devices, including a video recording system, cell phones, and a camera, were recovered from the boat by the highway patrol dive team and shipped to NTSB labs. The NTSB also conducted 33 interviews on scene with witnesses, vessel operators, inspectors, and duck boat company officials. Weather data, including wind speeds during the storm, was collected from local weather stations.
The NTSB report indicated that the duck boat was in the water 20 minutes after the issuance of a severe thunderstorm warning by the National Weather Service. The boat encountered winds of over 70 mph, in direct contradiction of the Coast Guard’s recommendation that duck boats should not go on water in winds exceeding 35 mph.
There is no official timetable for a final report from the NTSB, but it is essential that the operators of these amphibious vehicles be held accountable for the safety of their passengers. Nearly 20 years after the NTSB issued safety recommendations to the Coast Guard, states, manufacturers, operators, and service providers following a 1999 accident involving an Arkansas duck boat, we are still experiencing these preventable tragedies.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a public transportation accident, it is vital that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.