Boat accident victims remembered as investigators look for answers

Eight of the relatives killed were identified as from top left Butch Coleman Ray Coleman Glenn Coleman and Angela Coleman holding Maxwell Coleman. From bottom left Reece Coleman Belinda Coleman and Evan Coleman. Ayla Coleman aged one also died

MISSOURI, July 21 ― The drownings of 17 people when a "duck boat" in which they were riding sank in a storm over a Missouri lake on Thursday was reminiscent of an accident involving the amphibious tourist vessel in 1999 in which 13 people died. There had been wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour reported at Branson Airport at the time of the tragic accident.

He said it is unknown whether the captain or Ride the Ducks staff checked the forecast prior to going on the lake. "ABC News" Victor Oquendo was in Branson where a survivor, who lost nine members of her family, talked about what happened when she was tossed into the water. "I felt the water temperature raise to warm", she said.

Several community fundraisers and GoFundMe pages have been set up for families of the victims, including members of the Coleman family - but survivors say the healing has only just begun.

Cellphone video taken by a witness showed the boat struggling to move on the water before it was hit by waves and then sank.

Five of those who died were under the age of 16. Rader noted that the boat's captain survived the sinking but the driver did not.

A Philadelphia lawyer who has advocated for victims of other duck boat disasters said the canopy roof on duck boats turned them into a "death trap" even for anyone wearing a life jacket.

"They had them readily available on top of each and every person's seat", rider Annetta McCoy said.

Two people in hospital in a critical condition are expected to survive, according to a spokeswoman for Cox Medical Center.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil outside the boat operator’s office on Friday night
Hundreds of people attended a vigil outside the boat operator’s office on Friday night Charlie Riedel A

Mr. Rader said an off-duty sheriff's deputy working security for the boat company helped rescue people after the boat capsized.

She told WXIN that the captain of the boat told them, "Don't worry about grabbing the life jackets - you won't need them", so none of the family members grabbed them. "Part way through coming back is when the waves picked up and swamped the boat", Pattison told CNN via phone.

Meteorologists said a severe thunder warning had been issued. Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader has confirmed that 17 people have died in this tragedy.

A press conference was held Friday morning following Thursday's fatal boat capsizing at Table Rock Lake.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Branson on Friday to examine the accident.

"The incident is now under investigation, so it would not be prudent for us to comment or speculate as to what may have caused the incident, but extreme weather seems to have been a major factor", Bob Schwartz, the director of marketing and sales for Boston Duck Tours, said in a statement Friday.

The vessel was owned by Ripley Entertainment company, whose "Ride the Ducks" website on Saturday said the business is closed "while we support the investigation". They found that canopy on the duck boat (in the Arkansas case) made it harder for people to get out of the sinking boat.

Eight dead, more hospitalized after Missouri tourist boat incident
Divers located the vessel, which came to rest on its wheels on the lakebed, and authorities planned to recover it later Friday. But as she and Behr boarded the dinner cruise boat, "the wind really picked up bad and debris was flying everywhere", she said.

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