Three accused of fatal sinking of a duck in 2018 | New
A local prosecutor on Friday charged a boat captain and two other employees with 17 deaths in July 2018 when a tourist duck sank on a lake in Missouri during a severe thunderstorm.
A total of 63 felony charges were filed in Stone County against the captain, general manager and duty manager on the day of the accident for the Ride the Ducks attraction on Table Rock Lake near Mecca. tourist attraction in Branson, southwest Missouri.
Captain Kenneth Scott McKee, of Verona, General Manager Curtis Lanham, of Galena, and Service Director Charles Baltzell, of Kirbyville, were indicted after a federal judge dismissed earlier charges filed by federal prosecutors.
McKee, 54, faces 29 counts, including 17 counts of first degree manslaughter. The 12 additional charges allege that he endangered the child passengers on the boat, five of whom died.
Child endangerment charges laid for death are the most serious, punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison. Endangerment charges involving children who survived the crash carry a sentence of up to seven years.
An affidavit from a Missouri Highway Patrol sergeant accuses McKee of failing to perform his duties as a licensed captain by taking his amphibious vehicle out onto the lake during a thunderstorm.
Baltzell, 79, and Lanham, 39, each face 17 counts of first degree manslaughter. They are accused of not having communicated the weather conditions and of ceasing their operations during a severe thunderstorm warning.
Lawyers for Baltzell and Lanham did not immediately respond to the comments.
Each manslaughter charge alleges the men “recklessly caused” the death of a passenger. Missouri law provides for a prison sentence ranging from three to 10 years for a conviction on this charge.
Thirty-one people were on board when the duck entered the lake. Fourteen people survived.
Video and audio of the boat, retrieved by divers, showed the lake to be calm when the boat entered the water. But the weather suddenly turned violent. In a few minutes, the boat sank.
Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Green said in his affidavit that McKee failed to perform his duties and responsibilities by going to the lake with the Stretch Boat 7, with a severe thunderstorm warning in effect. He said McKee did not follow training policies or guidelines and had passengers on the boat put on life jackets when taking the water.
The wind speed at the time of the accident was over 70 mph, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The weather forecast had warned of an impending storm with winds of up to 60 mph.
A US Coast Guard inspection certificate for the boat issued in February 2017 stated that it “must not be used on the water” when winds exceed 35 mph and / or when wave heights exceed 2 feet.