Missouri Duck Boat Captain Indicted for Lake Accident That Killed 17 People in July

Duck boats sit idle in the parking lot of Ride the Ducks days after the accident in July in Branson, Mo. Kenneth Scott McKee, the captain and operator of a boat that sank on July 19, was charged on Thursday with criminal misconduct and negligence resulting in 17 deaths on Table Rock Lake.
Charlie Riedel/AP

A federal grand jury on Thursday handed up an indictment for criminal negligence and misconduct against the captain and operator of the duck boat that sank on Table Rock Lake in Missouri, killing 17 people over the summer.

Kenneth Scott McKee was piloting the amphibious boat when it sank in a sudden violent storm on July 19. He is charged with 17 counts of misconduct, negligence and inattention to duty by a ship’s officer, U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison announced at a news conference.

“Each of the 17 counts in this indictment represents a life that was lost when Stretch Duck 7 sank while being piloted by Mr. McKee,” Garrison said.

He added, “The indictment alleges that McKee failed to properly assess incoming severe weather, both prior to and after entering the water.” The government alleges that the captain ignored warnings of approaching high winds and lightning and that he operated the vessel in conditions that exceeded the boat’s limitations as regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Ride the Ducks Branson boat was capsized by powerful waves within approximately 35 minutes of leaving the terminal near the resort town of Branson. Seventeen of the 31 passengers and crew members aboard the tourist vessel died, including nine from the same family.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of rain, but the wind was tremendous,” KSMU Ozarks Public Radio reporter Jennifer Moore told NPR. The National Weather Service reported winds reached 65 mph.

Stretch Duck 7 was one of two vehicles in the water at the time the thunderstorm rolled in. Both struggled with the surging waves but the other eventually made it across the lake. The state attorney general suggested there were multiple opportunities wherein McKee could have also returned safely to shore.

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SOURCE: NPR, Vanessa Romo