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MO AG Refiles Charges in Duck Boat Sinking That Left 17 Dead

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt refiled criminal charges against three men involved in the 2018 sinking of a duck boat near Branson that killed 17 people. The complaint accuses the captain and two employees of neglecting passenger safety when they chose to bring the Ride The Ducks tour boat — a World War II-era amphibious vessel — to Table Rock Lake as a storm approached. Kenneth Scott McKee, who was piloting the boat when it sank, and employees Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell were charged. Schmitt brought 63 counts against the men a few days after a judge said the local prosecutor did not have enough evidence to sustain a criminal case against them, including involuntary manslaughter.

On July 19, 2018, powerful waves capsized the duck boat within 35 minutes of its departure. There were 31 passengers and crew members on board, including nine from the same family. In 2019, a federal grand jury indicted the three men on charges of criminal misconduct and negligence. The indictment portrayed a disregard for the storm, but the defense argued the lake was calm when the tour began. The federal charges were dismissed when a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department did not have jurisdiction over the case. The National Transportation Safety Board said the boat wouldn't have sunk if the U.S. Coast Guard had acted on recommendations prompted by a 1999 episode in which a a duck boat sank in Arkansas, leaving 13 people dead. NTSB investigators issued 22 recommendations, but only nine were implemented.


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