Deadly duck boat accident: Tour route switched; weather changed ‘within minutes,’ officials say

Credit: Nathan Papes

Credit: Nathan Papes

Video and audio recordings from the duck boat accident in Branson, Missouri, show the lake went from calm to deadly in minutes, according to new findings released Friday from the National Transportation Safety Board.

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Seventeen of the 31 people on board the tourist boat died when the duck boat sank at Table Rock Lake, near Branson, on July 19.

Nine members from one family died. The surviving family member said they were visiting from Indianapolis.

Divers were able to salvage parts of the video and audio recording systems from the boat, the NTSB stated.

Credit: National Transportation Safety Board

Credit: National Transportation Safety Board

According to the preliminary findings cited in their report, the captain and driver boarded the vessel just before 7 p.m.

The boat route normally takes passengers on a land tour around Branson before the 20-minute boat ride, but video recordings show that someone briefly stepped on to the boat and told the crew to go on the water part of the tour first.

A minute later, as passengers boarded, the captain talked about looking at the weather radar before the trip.

The duck boat went into the lake when the water appeared calm, at 6:55 p.m., the NTSB report stated.

During the first five minutes of the tour, the captain allowed four different children to sit in the driver’s seat.

Officials state that the weather suddenly changed just after 7 p.m. with increasing winds and whitecaps in the water.

According to the audio recordings, the boat driver lowered the curtains at 7:01 p.m. and the captain commented on the storm.

About two minutes later, the captain made a call on the boat’s handheld radio, but officials said the recording is inaudible.

The bilge alarm went off shortly after.

That alarm indicates that a significant amount of water entered the boat, private investigator Steve Paul told the Associated Press.

After it was activated, the captain reached down and the alarm stopped.

A second call was made on the handheld radio at 7:05 p.m. but the audio is also unintelligible, NTSB officials state.

Over the next couple of minutes, water splashed inside the passenger compartment.

The bilge alarm went off again at 7:07 p.m.

A minute later, the inward-facing video recording on the boat ended.

The recordings were examined at a lab in Washington, but the NTSB has not released its final conclusions about the cause of the accident.

Ripley Entertainment, the owner of Ride the Ducks of Branson, declined to comment about the video.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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