Drone footage of the Ride the Ducks boat being raised from 80 feet below Missouri lake
417Drone, Springfield News-Leader
The captain of the duck boat that sank last week in a thunderstorm, killing 17 passengers, referenced the weather prior to taking passengers out on Table Rock Lake, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB released its initial review of the Branson duck boat’s onboard video recorder Friday afternoon. The recorder included audio that the NTSB used to construct a timeline, though officials noted that the “audio quality varies widely throughout the recording.”
Weather expert on duck boat: Warnings were there and should have been heeded
The duck entered the water at 6:55 p.m., according to the video’s timestamp. At 6:29 p.m., “the captain made a verbal reference to looking at the weather,” according to the NTSB’s review, which noted that “times presented here are as-recorded by the DVR and have not yet been validated against local time.”
A thunderstorm warning was issued by the National Weather Service office in Springfield at 6:32 p.m. A thunderstorm watch had been issued several hours prior.
The amphibious vessel’s video system included four outward-facing recorders and one camera looking inward, according to the NTSB. A small memory card and a removable hard drive were recovered.
The duck captain, identified in a Missouri State Highway Patrol report as Kenneth McKee, “was told to take the water portion of the tour first,” the NTSB said, “by an individual who briefly stepped onto the rear of the vehicle.” The NTSB does not identify this person.
The duck driver (identified as Bob Williams by the patrol, and who was in charge of operating the vehicle on land) drove the vehicle while the captain narrated. At about 6:50 p.m., McKee delivered a safety briefing about the lake part of the tour.
“The briefing included the location of emergency exits as well as the location of the life jackets,” the NTSB’s initial report said. “The captain then demonstrated the use of a life jacket and pointed out the location of the life rings.”
McKee took over after that, and the boat went into the lake, at which time “the water appeared calm.”
In the five minutes after the boat hit the water, “the captain allowed four different children to sit in the driver’s seat, while he observed and assisted,” according to the NTSB.
By the end of that time, “whitecaps rapidly appeared on the water and winds increased,” according to the NTSB. McKee got back into his seat and Williams lowered the plastic curtains on the side of the duck, the NTSB said.
At least 17 are dead after a severe storm flooded a tourist boat on a southwestern Missouri lake. Warning: Video contains emotionally or visually disturbing content.
At 7:01 p.m., “the captain made a comment about the storm,” the NTSB said. Two minutes later, he made a call on a handheld radio, the contents of which the NTSB called “currently unintelligible.”
At 7:04 p.m., “an electronic tone associated with the bilge alarm activated,” the NTSB said. The captain made a downward motion a minute later, and the alarm stopped, according to the news release.
McKee made another unintelligible radio call at 7:05 p.m., according to the NTSB. In the final minutes of the recording, “water occasionally splashes inside the vehicle’s passenger compartment” and the bilge alarm tone sounds again. The inside video recording cuts out at 7:08 p.m., at which time the vehicle was still on the lake’s surface, according to the NTSB.
Branson duck boat: No passengers were wearing ‘safety device’
The highway patrol’s initial report shows the duck boat submerged about 7:13 p.m. The driver, Williams, and 16 passengers drowned. McKee, the captain, was among the 14 survivors, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful.
After divers recovered it, the duck boat video recorder was taken to an NTSB lab in Washington, D.C. The boat itself was taken to an undisclosed location for further investigation.
“The information does not contain analysis,” the NTSB said in a news release. “As such, no conclusions regarding the cause of the accident should be made from this preliminary information.”
The organization’s news release said a “group consisting of technical experts from the NTSB and parties to the investigation will convene at NTSB headquarters to begin validating the recorded data and developing a detailed transcript of the sequence of events.”
An NTSB spokesman said there not currently plans to release the audio or video.
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