Ban duck boat tours, says former NTSB chairman after fatal Branson sinking
Amphibious duck tours like the one that killed 17 people in Branson, Mo., last week should be banned, the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.
Former NTSB chairman Jim Hall, who served under President Bill Clinton, said the sinking on Table Rock Lake on Thursday seemed eerily similar to a 1999 duck boat incident that killed 13 people in Arkansas.
Hall said duck boat tours are essentially unregulated amusement park rides, a criticism others have leveled because the amphibious vehicles don’t fall neatly into being either a boat or a bus.
“My feeling after seeing this one is that the only thing to do in the name of public safety is to ban them,” Hall said.
“I think it’s the responsible thing to do to ensure (riders) are not put at risk.”
Following that 1999 fatal sinking in Arkansas, the NTSB recommended that duck boat operators install additional flotation devices to ensure the low-riding vehicles would stay afloat even if their engines and bilge pumps stopped working.
Duck boats, based on World War II military landing craft known as DUKWs, are popular with tourists because they permit sightseeing on both land and water.
But the vehicles were never designed for extended use, and some duck boat operators have significantly modified them to handle extra passengers and extend their operating seasons.
The Coast Guard announced Sunday that salvage crews will begin Monday to raise the Missouri duck boat that sank, killing 17 of the 31 people aboard.
The salvage operations were tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday and will be coordinated with Ride the Ducks, the company that operated the tour vehicle, before the vehicle is turned over to the NTSB, according to the Coast Guard.
Salvage operations were planned as relatives and friends continued to mourn the victims.
The Coast Guard said the boat that sank was built in 1944 and has passed an inspection in February, the Kansas City Star reported.
The company operating the Branson duck boats has halted service.
Divers have recovered a video recorder from the sunken duck boat that may provide clues to the disaster.
The recorder will be analyzed at an NTSB lab in Washington, D.C., but it’s still unclear whether the recorder was working at the time of the fatal capsizing or whether any of its data can be retrieved.
Citing the ongoing investigation, the company declined to comment and referred all inquiries to the NTSB.