Got a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Android TV? Get PIX11 content there now!

Death toll from duck boat capsizing rises to 17, including children

BRANSON, Mo. —  The final four people missing since a duck boat capsized on a lake in southern Missouri have been found, raising the death toll to 17, including children, authorities said.

Nine of 11 members of one family on board died, Gov. Mike Parson said Friday.

The office manager at the Stone County Sheriff’s office, Wendy Doucey, confirmed the discovery Friday. The Ride the Ducks boat sank Thursday night in the Lake of the Ozarks near Branson, a popular vacation spot for families and other tourists.

Fourteen people survived, with passengers and workers on the nearby Showboat Branson Belle — still docked as people boarded for a cruise — helping to rescue them, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said.

Those who died ranged in age from 1 to 70, Rader said.

Among those killed was the driver, Robert “Bob” Williams, said his widow, Judy Williams.

A second crew member — the boat’s captain, whose name wasn’t immediately released — was among the survivors and was taken to a hospital, said Pattison, president of Ripley Entertainment Inc.

Rader said Thursday that stormy weather likely made the boat capsize. Another duck boat on the lake made it safely back to shore.

Steve Lindenberg, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Springfield, Missouri, said the agency issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Branson area Thursday evening. Lindenberg said winds reached speeds of more than 60 mph.

“It’s a warning telling people to take shelter,” he said.

Rader said an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working security for the boat company helped rescue people after the boat capsized. Dive teams from several law enforcement agencies assisted in the effort.

The National Transportation Safety Board said investigators will arrive on the scene Friday morning.

Suzanne Smagala with Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson, said the company was assisting authorities with the rescue effort. Smagala added this was the Branson tour’s only accident in more than 40 years of operation.

Branson is about 200 miles southeast of Kansas City and is a popular vacation spot for families and other tourists looking for entertainment ranging from theme parks to live music. An EF2 tornado that bounced through downtown Branson in 2012 destroyed dozens of buildings and injured about three dozen people, but killed no one.

Duck boats, which can travel on land and in water, have been involved in other deadly incidents in the past. Five college students were killed in 2015 in Seattle when a duck boat collided with a bus, and 13 people died in 1999 when a duck boat sank near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Safety advocates have sought improvements since the Arkansas deaths. Critics argued that part of the problem is that too many agencies regulate the boats with varying safety requirements.

Duck boats were originally used by the U.S. military in World War II to transport troops and supplies, and later were modified for use as sightseeing vehicles.