Investigators updated the public and the media on its ongoing investigation into Thursday’s July 19, 2018) tragic duck boat trip on Table Rock Lake that left 17 people dead and 14 more injured.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Member Earl Weener revealed on Saturday evening that a “black box,” similar to that found on airplanes, had been located on the submerged duck boat and has been shipped to Washington, D.C., for inspection. A preliminary report from the U.S. Coast Guard and the NTSB is expected in about a week but announced that a final determination of probable cause isn’t likely for a year.
In his press conference, Weener focused on the Ride the Ducks Branson company’s decision to go out on that specific trip despite it being subscribers to a weather subscription service. He said that wind readings of 73 miles per hour were recorded. Hurricane force wind begin at 74 miles per hour according to the National Hurricane Center as well as the National Weather Service.
Additionally, Weener reported that waves on the lake were estimated to be at four feet high but crested as high as six feet. Witnesses said the water washed into the boat during the ride before the boat capsized and sank. Efforts are being made to pull the duck boat out of the bottom of the lake.
Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner of Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, a nationally recognized maritime and aviation crash law firm, spoke to USA Today on the incident and said that every passenger should have been wearing life jackets, comparing it to wearing seat belts in cars that result in a higher survival rate. “‘There’s no excuse. Whenever you’re transporting the public, you are responsible for providing the highest level of safety and that’s not what we saw here,'” he told USA Today reporter Crystal Hayes. Clifford also called for greater regulation of duck boats.
Clifford also was interviewed by ABC News reporter Bill Hutchinson, and said that the Ride the Ducks Branson should not have been on that water at all that day since the ominous weather reports issued from the morning and throughout the day should have led boat operators to forego the ride and put passengers’ safety first.
Taking the boat out at that hour of Thursday evening was “inexplicable.” The people who were killed as well as those injured could have been spared had different decisions been made by operators of the duck boat, he said.
Clifford is scheduled to speak Sunday evening on WGN radio, a talk radio station owned by Tribune Broadcasting that can be heard as far as Ontario, Canada..
In the meantime, community members gathered Friday night in the parking lot of the Ride the Ducks Branson to light candles and place flowers on the cars of the victims as a memorial.