13 dead as storm sinks 'duck boat' in US

Rescue personnel on the scene after an amphibious "duck boat" sank at Table Rock Lake near Branson in Missouri.
Rescue personnel on the scene after an amphibious "duck boat" sank at Table Rock Lake near Branson in Missouri.PHOTO: REUTERS

Amphibious tour boat carrying 31 people was one of two returning to land amid heavy wind

TAOS (New Mexico) • At least 13 people including children drowned after a tourist "duck boat" sank during a storm on a lake in Missouri on Thursday night.

Calling it a "terrible, horrific tragic accident", Missouri Governor Michael Parson told CNN that 13 people had been confirmed dead. "The rescue's still ongoing," he said.

CNN, quoting officials, said the tour boat was carrying 31 people and that four were missing.

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told reporters late on Thursday that divers would resume searching Table Rock Lake outside the town of Branson a day after the "Ride the Ducks" amphibious vehicle sank.

Seven victims, including two who were critically injured, were being treated at the Cox Medical Centre in Branson, the hospital said on Twitter.

Located in south-western Missouri, Branson is home to tourist attractions including "Dolly Parton's Stampede", a horse show, and a Titanic museum with a model of the sunken vessel's front half.

Emergency crews responded to the incident shortly after 7pm after thunderstorms rolled through an area that is a Midwestern tourist destination, the fire district said in a Twitter post.

"There was some heavy wind. It was having problems through the wind," Mr Rader told reporters. "They were coming back towards land. There were actually two ducks. The first one made it out. The second one didn't."

National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Linderberg told the Springfield News-Leader newspaper that the 100kph winds were recorded at the Branson airport near the time of the incident.

"We had a line of very strong thunderstorms" in Springfield, he told the newspaper, noting that winds were likely stronger on the lake.

Video footage shot by a witness on shore showed strong waves tossing two duck boats side to side. The video clip was posted online by KY3.

"Our No. 1 priority is the families and our employees that were affected by this tragic accident," said Ms Suzanne Smagala-Potts a spokesman for Ripley Entertainment, which owns the Ride The Ducks operation in Branson. She could not confirm how many crew members were aboard the boat.

Duck vehicles, inspired by watercraft used in the D-Day landing in World War II, are used on sightseeing tours around the world and have been involved in a number of fatal accidents on land and in the water in the past two decades.

The company that builds ducks, Ride the Ducks International, agreed in 2016 to pay a US$1 million (S$1.36 million) fine after one of the vehicles collided with a bus in Seattle, killing five international students. The company admitted to failing to comply with US vehicle manufacturing rules.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline '13 dead as storm sinks 'duck boat' in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe