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Missouri AG Files Charges Again in Branson Duck Sinking: NPR


A duck sits idle in the parking lot of Ride The Ducks, an amphibious tour operator in Branson, Missouri on July 20, 2018.

Charlie Riedel/AP


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Missouri AG Files Charges Again in Branson Duck Sinking: NPR

A duck sits idle in the parking lot of Ride The Ducks, an amphibious tour operator in Branson, Missouri on July 20, 2018.

Charlie Riedel/AP

The Missouri attorney general has filed new criminal charges against three men involved in the 2018 sinking of a duck in a lake near Branson that killed 17 people.

The criminal complaint accuses the captain and two employees of neglecting passenger safety when they chose to bring the Ride The Ducks tour boat – a World War II amphibious vessel – to Table Rock Lake at the a storm is approaching.

Kenneth Scott McKee, who was piloting the boat when it sank, and employees Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell have been charged.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt brought 63 charges against the three men, just days after a Stone County judge ruled the local prosecutor did not have enough evidence to press charges. charges against them, including manslaughter, member station KCUR reported.

On July 19, 2018, powerful waves capsized the Duck within 35 minutes of leaving the terminal near the Branson resort town. There were 31 passengers and crew on board, including nine from the same family.

“There wasn’t a lot of rain, but the wind was tremendous,” Jennifer Moore of public radio KSMU Ozarks told NPR in 2018.

In 2019, a federal grand jury indicted the three men for criminal misconduct and negligence. The indictment portrays a disregard for the storm, but the defense argued the lake was calm when the visit began. The boat was no match for the rare derecho, defense attorneys argued.

The federal charges were dismissed when a federal judge ruled the Justice Department lacked jurisdiction over the case.

The NTSB said the boat would not have sunk had the US Coast Guard acted on recommendations triggered by another tragedy decades ago. In 1999, a duck sank in Arkansas, killing 13 people.

Following the sinking of the Arkansas Duck, NTSB investigators issued 22 recommendations, but only nine were implemented.

Schmitt’s decision to refile the charges comes as the Republican is running for the US Senate.

“As I have said previously, my office is committed to fighting for justice on behalf of the 17 people who were tragically killed in 2018 – which is why we have refiled the charges in this case,” said Schmitt said in a statement.

Lawyers for the defendants are disappointed with Schmitt’s decision, KCUR reported. “It’s a waste of time, it unnecessarily prolongs the pain of everyone involved, and Mr. Baltzell has committed no crime,” said Justin Johnston, an attorney who represents Baltzell.

The Missouri attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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