Seventeen people were killed Thursday night when a duck boat capsized and sank in Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. Fourteen others survived, with seven of them injured in the accident.
The Branson area was under severe thunderstorm warning about half an hour before the vessel capsized. Winds were gusting up to 63 mph in the area, according to the National Weather Service.
Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said Missouri State Highway Patrol divers had located the amphibious tour boat and planned to recover it later Friday. He said he believed the boat sank in 40 feet of water and rolled into 80 feet.
Ripley Entertainment is the parent company of Ride the Ducks Branson, the duck boat tour company. On Friday, company president Jim Pattison Jr. told “CBS This Morning” that the boat “shouldn’t have been in the water.”
National Transportation Safety Board investigators were expected on the scene Friday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard will also conduct an investigation, with assistance from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
How Did This Happen? Who Is At Fault?
Maritime attorney Hugh Lambert, of Lambert Zainey, said that it’s not uncommon for vessel owners to quickly start shifting blame after an accident.
“Placing blame on the captain is how a vessel owner can limit its liability in an accident like this,” said Lambert. “The important thing here is whether the passengers were instructed on what to do in this type of situation. Were the weather curtains, seen in the video as deployed, properly designed to allow for escape in an emergency? Why were so many unable to escape? Was the vessel properly outfitted for this predictable circumstance? Was the vessel seaworthy?”
Lambert, who has more than 40 years of experience in handling maritime injury claims, said it is the vessel owner’s responsibility to ensure that proper safety procedures were in place and that the appropriate equipment, crew and safety devices were available to make the vessel seaworthy.
Lambert Zainey is a maritime injury firm based in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you have been injured or a loved was killed in a commercial boat accident, we can help you seek justice from those responsible.