The incident

On 19 July 2018, at about 1908 central daylight time, a 33-foot-long, modified World War II-era DUKW amphibious passenger vessel, "the Stretch Duck 7" sank during a storm with heavy winds that developed rapidly on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri.

Of the 31 persons that were onboard, there were reported 17 fatalities. As the NTSB reported, the vessel's operator, Ride the Ducks of Branson continued to operate waterborne tours although a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued.

Due to the strong weather conditions, the manager-on-duty advised the captain, prior to departing, to complete the lake portion of the tour before the land tour, which normally occurred first.

In addition, three other vessels from the company also started waterborne tours following the severe thunderstorm warning.

In light of the situation, the Stretch Duck 7 entered the water with strong winds and waves reportedly 3- to 5-feet high, with the highest wind gust recorded at 73 mph. Yet, the vessel during its effort to reach land, took on water and sank approximately 250 feet away from the exit ramp.

Following the vessel's sink, several first responders, along with the crewmembers and passengers aboard a paddlewheeler moored nearby and managed to rescue 14 passengers, 7 of whom were transported to a local hospital.

#Findings#

  • The Stretch Duck 7’s propulsion, steering, and bilge systems operated normally and thus were not factors in this accident.
  • Neither alcohol nor other impairing drugs were factors in this accident.
  • On the day of the accident, the National Weather Service accurately forecasted and issued timely notifications of a severe thunderstorm that would impact the accident location.
  • Ride the Ducks did not effectively use all available weather information to monitor the approaching severe weather and assess the risk it posed to its waterborne operations.
  • Ride the Ducks should have suspended waterborne operations for the Stretch Duck 7 and the other last tours of the day in anticipation of imminent severe weather.
  • The rapid sinking of the Stretch Duck 7 resulted from uncontrolled progressive flooding due to a lack of subdivision.
  • When the vessel sank, the closed starboard-side curtain aboard the Stretch Duck 7 impeded egress and likely resulted in additional fatalities.
  • Initial water ingress to the Stretch Duck 7 was likely from waves rolling over the air intake hatch’s spring-loaded damper and intermittently opening it, thereby allowing water into the engine compartment.

This is a synopsis from the NTSB’s report and does not include the Board’s rationale for the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations. NTSB staff is currently making final revisions to the report from which the attached conclusions and safety recommendations have been extracted. The final report and pertinent safety recommendation letters will be distributed to recommendation recipients as soon as possible.

...as NTSB noted.