Duck boat cap­tain charged in sink­ing on Ta­ble Rock Lake

The in­dict­ment also al­leges Mc­Kee al­lowed the boat’s plas­tic side cur­tains to be low­ered, which blocked the ex­its.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MAR­GARET STAFFORD

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Charges have been filed against the cap­tain of a tourist boat that sank in Ta­ble Rock Lake in July and killed 17 peo­ple, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said Thurs­day.

Ken­neth Scott Mc­Kee is fac­ing 17 counts of mis­con­duct, neg­li­gence or inat­ten­tion to duty by a ship’s of­fi­cer re­sult­ing in death, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral in­dict­ment. The ac­ci­dent oc­curred when an am­phibi­ous ves­sel known as a duck boat sank when a sud­den and se­vere storm rolled into the area.

Mc­Kee, 51, is ac­cused of not prop­erly as­sess­ing the weather be­fore or af­ter the boat went into the lake near Bran­son, U.S. At­tor­ney Tim Gar­ri­son said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Spring­field.

Gar­ri­son said Mc­Kee vi­o­lated con­di­tions spec­i­fied in the boat’s cer­tifi­cate of in­spec­tion by fail­ing to tell pas­sen­gers to put on per­sonal flota­tion de­vices and not im­me­di­ately in­creas­ing speed and driv­ing to the near­est shore, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment.

The in­dict­ment also al­leges Mc­Kee al­lowed the boat’s plas­tic side cur­tains to be low­ered, which blocked the ex­its.

Ri­p­ley En­ter­tain­ment, the com­pany that op­er­ated the boats and sus­pended oper­a­tion fol­low­ing the ac­ci­dent, didn’t re­spond Thurs­day af­ter­noon to mes­sages seek­ing com­ment. A spokes­woman for the com­pany pre­vi­ously said the com­pany has co­op­er­ated with au­thor­i­ties.

The U.S. Coast Guard found prob­a­ble cause that the ac­ci­dent re­sulted from Mc­Kee’s “mis­con­duct, neg­li­gence, or inat­ten­tion to the du­ties,” ac­cord­ing to an Au­gust court fil­ing. The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice added that the cap­tain of a sec­ond duck boat that safely made it to shore dur­ing the storm acted in a “grossly neg­li­gent man­ner,” though the court fil­ing didn’t elab­o­rate on those find­ings.

The sink­ing killed nine mem­bers of Tia Cole­man’s fam­ily, in­clud­ing her three young chil­dren and hus­band, who were va­ca­tion­ing from In­di­ana. Oth­ers who died in­cluded two cou­ples from Mis­souri, an Illi­nois woman, an Arkansas fa­ther and son, and a re­tired pas­tor who was the boat’s op­er­a­tor on land. Sev­eral law­suits have been filed on be­half of vic­tims and their sur­vivors.

Weather was calm when the ves­sel known as a Stretch Duck 7 be­gan its trip July 19. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have con­tended that op­er­a­tors had am­ple warn­ing a strong storm was ap­proach­ing.

The ves­sel’s cer­tifi­cate of in­spec­tion is­sued by the Coast Guard in 2017 es­tab­lished rules and lim­i­ta­tions on when it could be on the wa­ter. It states the boat “shall not be op­er­ated wa­ter­borne” when winds ex­ceed 35 mph and/or wave heights ex­ceed 2 feet.

Video and au­dio from the boat, re­cov­ered by divers, showed the lake was calm when the boat en­tered the wa­ter. But the weather sud­denly turned vi­o­lent and, within min­utes, the boat sank.

The wind speed at the time of the ac­ci­dent was more than 70 mph, just short of hur­ri­cane force, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board. Weather fore­casts had warned of an im­pend­ing storm with winds pos­si­bly ex­ceed­ing 60 mph.

On May 1, 1999, 13 peo­ple died when the Miss Ma­jes­tic duck boat sank on Lake Hamil­ton near Hot Springs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.