BRANSON, Mo. – Criminal charges are being filed against Ride the Ducks Branson employees after a boat sank in a 2018 incident that killed 17 people. There are 63 charges filed against the three defendants.
Amphibious duck boats can give passenger tours on water and on land. The Ride the Ducks Branson amphibious vessel had 31 people on board when it left the shore that June on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, as a severe thunderstorm whipped up intense winds and waves.
Many people lost their lives that day. Some of them included several members from the same family.
Captain Scott McKee faces 17 counts of involuntary manslaughter and several felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Operations Supervisor Charles Baltzell and General Manager Curtis Lanham are both facing 17 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The three defendants were facing 47 charges in an indictment unsealed in June 2019. In September 2020 US District Court of Western Missouri Chief Magistrate Judge David P. Rush recommended granting a joint motion by the defendants to dismiss the indictment for “lack of admiralty jurisdiction.” The judge said that if the three defendants are to be prosecuted, the case should be handled at the state level and not federal court.
Stone County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced the state-level charges today.
In April 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that Ride the Ducks Branson and its parent company, Ripley Entertainment, were at fault for the sinking because managers did not relay a severe weather forecast to McKee.
These charges are merely accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.