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Judge says charges should be dismissed in Missouri duck boat sinking that killed 17

Ride the Ducks Branson (David Wills/WikiCommons)

A federal magistrate judge suggested that the criminal charges should be dropped against three men indicted in the 2018 sinking of a duck boat that killed 17 people.

Curtis Lanham, the general manager of the boat’s operator, Ride the Ducks Branson, and Charles Baltzell, the manager on duty that day, were both charged with neglect and misconduct charges, and the captain, Scott McKee, was accused of failing to properly assess the weather before launching the boat and to instruct passengers to use flotation devices.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush said Friday that Table Rock Lake is not considered a navigable waterway under admiralty law, according to KCUR.

A similar explanation, with the opposite effect, was used last year when a judge ruled that an 1851 maritime law did not protect the owners against civil lawsuits filed by the victims and their families.

On July 19, 2018, during a line of thunderstorms, the Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle sank into the Table Rock Lake with 31 people on board.

Seventeen people, ranging from ages 1 to 70 and including nine members of one family, drowned.

Lanham’s lawyers told KCUR that the accident “was caused by a once in a lifetime storm and not as a result of actions or the failure to act on the part of Curtis or any other employees.”

The National Transportation Safety Board in April blamed both Ride the Ducks Branson and the Coast Guard for failing to enact NTSB recommendations on safety protocols for duck boats.


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