How to make duck boats safer

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Published 8:21 p.m. ET July 23, 2018 | Updated 9:04 p.m. ET July 23, 2018CLOSE
Hundreds of community members gathered for a vigil in Branson, Missouri for the 17 people, 9 of them from one family, who died suddenly when a duck boat capsized.
USA TODAYIn Branson, Missouri, three commonsense steps could have saved 17 tourists: Our viewThe duck boat that sank in Branson, Missouri, is raised on July 23, 2018.(Photo: Nathan Papes/Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader/via AP)Duck boats can be fun to ride. Amphibious vehicles with a history that goes back to the D-Day landing in World War II, they draw tourists for sightseeing trips that glide effortlessly from land into water like, well, ducks.But they can also be deadly, as tragically proven last week in a raging storm on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, where 17 people, including nine members of one family, drowned.Duck boat operators — and the federal agencies supposed to regulate and oversee them — have had plenty of warnings about the dangers after other fatal accidents.The deadliest, until now, occurred nearly 20 years ago, when the Miss Majestic sank in just about a minute on a Arkansas lake, killing 13, including three children. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated and, in a 2002 report, warned of the boats’ inherent dangers and recommended numerous safety fixes.The key was that operators provide “reserve buoyancy” for the boats, which are “vulnerable to rapid swamping and sinking.” Survivors of the Miss Majestic said the boat sank so swiftly, there wasn’t time for passengers to escape. The Coast Guard, which regulates the boats’ water operations, did not agree with the recommendation and instead offered alternative approaches to making duck boats stable and preventing passengers from being trapped in a sinking vessel. After last week’s disaster, former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall …



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