BRANSON, Mo.–The captain of the duck boat that sank, killing 17 people, including nine members of the Coleman family of Indianapolis, had faced state charges related to the 2018 sinking. Those charges and the charges against the general manager and the manager on duty of Ride the Ducks, have been dismissed.
The boat sank during a severe thunderstorm on July 19, 2018. Three years later 63 counts were fled against Captain Kenneth McKee, and employees Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell.
In his dismissal of the charges Tuesday, Judge Alan Blankenship said the boat’s unique characteristics led to its rapid sinking, reported KY3 TV in Missouri. The judge also said the staff knew about the storm in which the boat sank, but did not know about the “gust front”.
Video exists on YouTube of the boat’s final moments afloat before the amphibious craft went beneath the waves on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, taking with it 31 people, 17 of whom died.
Neglect and misconduct charges against the three were dismissed December 2020. Those were federal charges.
Last week the Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act, authored by Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, was passed by the U.S. House, as part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act.
“Today is a major step forward in our effort to make Duck Boats safer and honor the memory of the Coleman family, as well as all who have died in Duck Boat accidents,” said Rep. Carson. “I thank the surviving members of the Coleman family and their loved ones, particularity Tia Coleman, for their impassioned advocacy on this priority. They have turned their pain into purpose, and for that we are grateful. Now that the House has passed the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, I urge the Senate to also vote in favor of the legislation, so the Duck Boat safety recommendations provided by the National Transportation Safety Board 20 years ago can finally become law. This will no doubt save countless lives.”
The Duck Boat Safety Improvement Act will require vessel operators to implement common-sense boating safety measures when waterborne, including:
Improving reserve buoyancy and watertight compartmentalization to prevent sinking,
Requiring more monitoring and adherence to severe weather alerts and warnings,
Requiring release of road safety seatbelts when Duck Boats become waterborne,
Requiring stronger crew safety training and certification,
Removing or reconfigure canopies and window coverings for waterborne operations,
Requiring personal flotation devices for waterborne operations,
Requiring installation of better bilge pumps and alarms,
Installing underwater LED lights that activate automatically in emergencies, and
Complying with other Coast Guard boating safety requirements.
More than 40 people have died in duck boat accidents since 1999.