Captain of Duck Boat That Sank, Killed 17 People Allegedly Ignored Severe Weather Warnings

The caption of a Missouri Duck Boat that sank, leaving 17 people dead, was charged on Friday and accused of ignoring a severe weather warning.

The charges were announced in a statement released by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office.

According to the press release, the boat's Captain Scott McKee was charged with 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, a Class C Felony; five counts of first degree endangering the welfare of a child, a Class A felony; and seven counts of first degree endangering the welfare of a child, a Class D felony.

The charges stem from an incident in 2018, when the Duck Boat capsized in Missouri's Table Rock Lake, leaving 17 dead. The Duck Boat is an amphibious vehicle that can travel on land and water, according to the press release.

"According to the probable cause statement, on the afternoon of July 19, 2018, Stretch Duck #7 entered Table Rock Lake during a severe thunderstorm warning, encountered severe weather and rough winds, took on water and eventually sunk, resulting in the death of 17 people," the Missouri Attorney General's office said in a press release. "The probable cause statement alleges that Scott McKee, the Captain of Stretch Boat #7, failed to exercise his duties as a licensed Captain by entering the lake during a severe thunderstorm warning, and failed to follow policies and training by not having passengers affix flotation devices as the boat took on water."

The probable cause statement also notes that "The National Weather Service and news media outlets had forecasted the possibility of severe weather throughout the day."

According to the probable cause statement, five of the 17 victims that died were children.

In 2018, Captain McKee was criminally charged with 17 counts of misconduct, negligence and inattention to duty by a ship's officer but the charges were dropped in December 2020.

In addition to the captain of the Duck Boat, the Missouri Attorney General's office, the Duck Boat's Operations Supervisor Charles Baltzell and General Manager Curtis Lanham were both charged with 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, a Class C Felony.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Suzanne Smagala-Potts, a public relations manager for Ripley's Entertainment, which owned the Ride the Ducks operation in Branson, wrote, "We continue to cooperate with all investigations into the sudden and severe storm known as a derecho that struck Table Rock Lake in July of 2018, resulting in a tragic accident."

The statement continued, "While the Stone County Prosecutor has brought criminal charges as a result of the accident, all persons charged are entitled to a strong presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We have and will continue to offer support for our current and former employees as this process moves forward."

Duck Boat
A Ride The Ducks World War II DUKW boat is seen at Ride The Ducks on July 20, 2018 in Branson, Missouri Michael Thomas/Getty