A grand jury has indicted the captain of July’s fatal duck boat sinking in Branson. During a press conference today in Springfield, Tim Garrison, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, says Kenneth Scott McKee of Mount Vernon has been indicted on 17 counts for alleged misconduct, negligence and inattention to duty resulting in death.
“Let me say something about the way ahead. This indictment represents the beginning, and not the end, of our efforts in this matter,” Garrison says.
Thirty-one people were aboard the vessel on July 19 when a severe wind storm quickly surfaced on Table Rock Lake – killing seventeen people on the duck boat.
According to Garrison, the indictment alleges that Mr. McKee failed to properly assess incoming severe weather both prior to and after entering the water and McKee entered the boat on the water while there was severe weather, including high winds and lightning approaching the area.
Garrison says the indictment also details that McKee operated the vessel in violation of the conditions and limitations specified in the vessel’s U.S. Coast Guard certificate of inspection and operated the amphibious boat in weather which generated wind speeds and wave heights which exceeded those for which the vessel was rated.
Further, McKee is alleged to have failed to tell passengers to put their life jackets on, immediately increase the speed of the boat and make the most direct path to shore when severe weather arrived. Garrison says McKee also failed to cause or allow the boat’s side curtains to be lowered and did not have them raised during severe weather.
“The captain of the vessel always has a duty in a safe manner,” he says. “That’s why Mr. McKee is under indictment.”
According to the National Transportation Safety Board – NTSB – the Ride the Ducks boat sank on July 19 in Table Rock Lake when thunderstorm warnings were issued. NTSB investigators say winds of more than 70 miles-per-hour were registered by a nearby vessel.
McKee faces a class C felony with a prison sentence of up to ten years and a $250,000 fine.
The companies which operates Ride the Ducks, Ripley Entertainment and Ride the Ducks International, have been sued by several family members of the victims involved in the tragic event. The Branson operation has been closed since the fatal incident.
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