A Missouri duck boat survivor reportedly said the captain told passengers ‘not to worry about grabbing life jackets’

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  • Seventeen people are dead after a tourist “duck boat” capsized during storms at Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri.
  • A survivor who lost nine family members in the accident told a local TV station that the captain told passengers not to put on life jackets.
  • The tour boat company president said the boats had life vests but that passengers are not required to wear them.
  • The boats were on the water after the National Weather Service issued a severe-thunderstorm warning in the area as wind speeds surpassed 60 mph.

A woman who survived a deadly duck boat accident in Missouri on Thursday told a Fox-affiliated TV station in Indianapolis that the boat’s captain told passengers “not to worry about grabbing life jackets.”

Seventeen people were killed after a duck boat with 31 people on board capsized and sank to the bottom of Table Rock Lake in Branson, located in southern Missouri, during a severe thunderstorm.

Nine of those who died were members of the same family from Indianapolis. Two other family members who were aboard the duck boat that capsized survived, including Tia Coleman, who spoke to Fox59.

“My heart is very heavy. Out of 11 of us, only two of us surviving – that’s me and my nephew,” Coleman told Fox59.

Coleman said none of the passengers put on life jackets because the captain said they were not necessary.

“When it was time to grab them it was too late,” she told the TV station. “I believe that a lot of people could have been spared,” Coleman said.

A relative who was not aboard the duck boat shared a photo with Atlanta’s WSB-TV that includes several of the family members who died.

Life Vest Regulations

Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said life jackets were stored on the boat but he could not say if passengers were wearing them when the boat capsized, according to Fox News.

Jim Pattison Jr., the president of the company that owns the Ride The Ducks tour operation, told CBS This Morning that the boats had life vests, but that people were not required to wear them.

“The Coast Guard requires life jackets to be available for each passenger on a boat, including duck boats, but allows the crew to decide when to instruct passengers to put them on,” according to The New York Times.

Children under the age of the seven are required to wear a life jacket whenever they are on a boat “unless they are in the cabin area of a houseboat or cruiser,” according to boating laws on the Missouri government website.

Footage and Thunderstorm Warnings

Winds in Branson reached more than 60 mph when the duck boat overturned. The National Weather Service had issued a severe-thunderstorm warning in the area roughly 30 minutes before officials were alerted to the sinking boat, according to The New York Times.

Pattison told CBS This Morning on Friday that the storm “came out of basically nowhere” and that the lake is typically calm.

When asked why the tour continued in such conditions, Pattison responded: “I don’t have all the details, but to answer your question, no, it shouldn’t have been in the water if, if what happened, happened.”

Footage recorded at Table Rock Lake showed small duck boats, which can traverse both water and land, struggling against large waves and heavy winds around the time of the disaster.

Previous Duck Boat Accidents

The incident marks the first time in more than 40 years that a Ride The Ducks boat in Branson was involved in an accident, a company representative said.

“Very sad to hear about this horrible accident – prayers for all those involved and the first responders who are assisting,” Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri said on Twitter.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Duck boats were originally used by the military during World War II. Several fatal accidents have occurred since they were repurposed as tourist vehicles, including one in 2015 in which five students were killed when one collided with a bus in Seattle. A duck boat that sank in Arkansas in 1999 killed 13 people.