‘Ride The Ducks’ Boats Not Designed For Commercial Use, Per Former NTSB Chairman

Ride the Ducks boat should not be used recreationally
Charlie Riedel / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Thursday evening a “Ride The Ducks” boat accident left 17 people dead when the World War II-era boat sank during a storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. Now, former a National Transportation Safety Board chairman said the vessels used in the popular tourist attraction were not designed for commercial, recreational use.

According to a report from Tulsa World, James Hall, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and served as NTSB chairman from 1994 to 2001, said that the amphibious boats should be banned for use in commercial, recreational endeavors like the one in Branson. Hall said that the boats’ design makes them prone to sinking like the accident on Thursday evening. The former NTSB chairman doesn’t see any way to make the vehicles safe for the type of activity they’re being used for currently. Initially, they were designed for armies to storm beaches.

In all, 29 passengers and two crew members were aboard the craft when the raging storm swept across Table Rock Lake. Currently, the NTSB and the U.S. Coast Guard are working to piece together the details of how the severe weather hit and the boat ended up sinking, costing 17 people their lives, nine of whom were from the same Coleman family. The investigation may take up to a year.

According to a report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, none of the people on the craft were wearing life jackets at the time of the accident.

The Chicago Tribune reported that private inspector Steve Paul inspected several boats operated by Ripley Entertainment, and he warned the company that design flaws in the way the boats’ exhaust systems work and the way the pump that pushes out water from the boats’ hulls could cause the vessels to sink during severe weather.

Paul also complained that the canopies on the vehicles posed a serious risk once the craft is in trouble.

“The biggest problem with a duck when it sinks is that canopy. That canopy becomes what I’ll call a people catcher, and people can’t get out from under that canopy,” he said.

Ripley Entertainment spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala noted that the accident on Thursday evening is the first ever in 40 years of operation. Even so, the accident is absolutely catastrophic, and it seems that companies had plenty of warning in the past that these boats posed a serious danger.

Including Thursday’s accident, 40 people have perished in accidents on these vehicles since 1999.