Bipartisan legislation aimed at improving safety on duck boats and other amphibious passenger vessels was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

Missouri State Highway Patrol crews assist the U.S. Coast Guard during the duck boat recovery efforts on July 23, 2018 (file photo courtesy of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Twitter page)

It was one of the first bills filed by U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), after he was sworn into office in January 2019. Hawley’s bill is very similar to one filed by former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Hawley defeated her in 2018.

During a Thursday Senate floor speech, Hawley told colleagues that the deadly 2018 incident on southwest Missouri’s Table Rock Lake should never have happened. 17 people died that day.

“It’s been 875 days, and we’ve seen investigation after investigation conclude the same thing: that lives (at Table Rock Lake) could have been saved if action had been taken. If this body (the U-S Senate) had acted, if the security measures had been put in place,” Hawley says.

17 of the 31 passengers on the duck boat died, when a storm with 70-mile-per-hour winds came through Table Rock Lake. The NTSB says the Coast Guard’s failure to require sufficient design of amphibious vessels contributed to the boat’s sinking.

Hawley’s bill requires duck boats to be equipped to stay afloat, in the event of flooding. It also mandates that duck boats remove canopies, and requires the boats to have extra life preservers and additional ways to pump water out.

Hawley notes the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made several recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard after a similar 1999 tragedy in Arkansas.

“In 1999, 13 people were killed when a duck boat sank during a tour of Lake Hamilton in Arkansas,” says Hawley.

Hawley also tells colleagues there have been other duck boat incidents in Seattle, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Hawley’s bill still must be approved by the U.S. House. It’s sponsored there by U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana. One of Carson’s constituents is Tia Coleman, who lost nine family members at Table Rock Lake.

Congressman Carson describes the Duck Boat Safety Act as a common-sense piece of legislation.

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