Duck boat captain charged in accident
ST. LOUIS – In an indictment that referenced a little-known law dating back to the age of steamships, Kenneth Scott McKee, the captain of the duck boat that sank during a severe July thunderstorm in southwest Missouri, was charged Thursday with misconduct and negligence.
Seventeen people between the ages of 1 and 76, including nine members of one Indiana family, died on July 19 when the boat capsized amid high winds and began taking on water, making it one of the deadliest duck boat accidents in decades.
The indictment said McKee had failed to properly assess the weather forecast, ignoring warnings of high winds and lightning when he took the boat out onto Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Mo. The statute that McKee was charged under is known colloquially as seaman’s manslaughter, and dates back to the era when steamboat disasters were commonplace, killing hundreds of people in fires and boiler explosions. In 1838, Congress passed legislation stating that captains and crew could be held criminally liable if anyone on board died as a result of their misconduct.