A Missouri judge dismissed criminal charges against three tour boat company employees in connection with a 2018 accident that killed 17 people near Branson, ruling that not enough evidence had been provided to support the counts of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment, reports the New York Times. Judge Alan Blankenship of Stone County circuit court said that prosecutors had not shown that the employees committed felony offenses by taking the boat out on Table Rock Lake before powerful thunderstorms struck. State and local prosecutors, who pursued the case together, argued that the employees should not have taken the boat out on the lake as bad weather approached and that they should have had the passengers wear flotation devices.
The judge wrote that prosecutors had not provided “sufficient evidence” to show the intent required to prove the charges. He said prosecutors would have had to show that the employees had been acting recklessly or knowingly despite the circumstances. Blankenship dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that prosecutors could bring charges again. Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for the Missouri attorney general’s office, said, “Our office hopes to refile charges and continue this case.”