Duck Boat Capsizes on Table Rock Lake, Fatalities Confirmed
Emergency crews from multiple agencies were on the scene of a mass-casualty incident on Table Rock Lake on Thursday evening shortly after 7 p.m. in Stone County near Branson Missouri, after a line of severe thunderstorms rolled through the area, according to the Southern Stone County Fire Protection District.
Several patients were transported to area hospitals, it was reported. Divers were on the scene. Staging was at the Branson Belle. However, the Branson Belle is not involved.
KSPR in Springfield reports that Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader confirmed that there are fatalities after an amphibious duck boat from a "Ride The Ducks" tourist attraction capsized after storms quickly moved through the area after 7 p.m. KSPR also reports there were a total of 31 people on board, including young children.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that the 1944 GMC boat sank 75 feet north of the Branson Belle. The latest reports indicate 17 people died and several others were hospitalized, some in critical condition. Victims ranged in age from one to 70. According to the Associated Press, a spokeswoman for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said nine of the 17 people who died in the duck boat accident are from the same family (Coleman).
The Stone County Sheriff's Department identified the Indiana family members as 45-year-old Angela Coleman, one-year-old Arya Coleman, 69-year-old Belinda Coleman, 76-year-old Ervin Coleman, seven-year-old Evan Coleman, 40-year-old Glenn Coleman, 70-year-old Horace Coleman, two-year-old Maxwell Coleman, and nine-year-old Reece Coleman.
Victims from Missouri were identified as 69-year-old William Asher, 68-year-old Rosemarie Hamann, 63-year-old Janice Bright, 65-year-old William Bright and 73-year-old Bob Williams.
Also killed were 64-year-old Leslie Dennison of Illinois, and 15-year-old Lance Smith and 53-year-old Steve Smith from Arkansas.
According to an eyewitness cell phone video posted by KY-3 and shot by a woman aboard the nearby Branson Showboat Belle, there were two fully-loaded duck boats in the water when the strong storm winds hit. Both struggled to make it back to shore for several minutes. One made it back safely, while the other did not.
Sustained winds of 40 mph were reported at the time, with gusts of up to 63 mph.
Branson Local News & Weather offered their thoughts and prayers to the victims.
The investigation into the boat sinking is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Coast Guard. Governor Parson pledged the support of all state resources necessary to assist with the investigation.
On Friday, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Critical Incident Stress Management team deployed to Branson to assist State Parks concessionaire staff and visitors who helped in search and rescue efforts Thursday. The concessionaire staff and visitors helped rescue two of the survivors and recovered the bodies of three victims immediately after the boat sank.
Other state resources that have responded to assist include the Department of Conservation and DNR State Parks rangers, the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Department of Mental Health, and the State Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Mortuary Assistance Team.
Other agencies that have played critical parts in response and recovery efforts include the Stone County Sheriff’s Department, Taney County Sheriff’s Department, Christian County Sheriff’s Department, Branson Police Department, Branson Fire Department, Southern Stone County Fire, Western Taney County Fire, Taney County Ambulance District, and Mercy Ambulance.
After meeting with Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader and others leading the recovery operation early Friday morning, Gov. Parson traveled to Cox Medical Center Branson to meet with survivors and some of the medical personnel who helped treat some of those injured Thursday night. The Governor also met with some of the civilians and emergency responders who helped with rescues Thursday and with the loved ones of some of the victims.
“What happened here last night was a heart-breaking tragedy, and we must all work together to support the victims and their families,” Gov. Parson said.
“The courageous efforts of emergency responders and civilian rescuers helped avert an even worse tragedy, as people rushed to help in extremely dangerous conditions. I was inspired by the stories I heard from some of those who were part of the rescue effort and tremendously encouraged by the strength of the family members of victims I met with today. We pray for all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy," he said on Friday.
According to published reports, the captain of the boat, Kenneth McKee, 51, survived, but the driver of the boat, Bob Williams, 73, died. Sheriff Rader said that Highway Patrol divers found the boat sitting on its wheels about 80 feet down. The boat is to be removed Monday morning to be inspected by the National Transportation Safety Board. The Coast Guard will reportedly oversee the operation.
Ride The Ducks Branson, owned by Ripley Entertainment, has been in business since 1971, according to its facebook page.