The 17 people who died Thursday night when an amphibious passenger vehicle sank on Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri surpassed the number of people killed in a similar tragedy nearly 20 years ago in Arkansas.
Authorities said Friday that thunderstorms and winds that approached hurricane strength were responsible for a DUKW boat, more commonly known as a "duck boat," capsizing on the popular tourist lake near Branson.
The incident was reminiscent of one on May 1, 1999, when a duck boat sank near Hot Springs and killed 13 people, including five Arkansans.
The boat was carrying 20 passengers and had just begun a tour of Lake Hamilton when it started taking on water at Catalina Point off St. John's Island. The driver said she tried to turn around and return to shore, but the vessel sank within 30 seconds.
Authorities said the water likely forced passengers upward and trapped them under a canopy over the top of the vehicle. It sank so rapidly that many of those on board did not have time to escape.
Eight people, including the driver, survived what authorities called the "worst waterways accident in modern Arkansas history." Three children and tourists from Tennessee and Louisiana were among the deceased.
The driver told the National Transportation and Safety Board that she had taken the vessel, christened the Miss Majestic, to the company's mechanics just two days before it sank because a bilge pump turned on automatically. The Majestic sank in about 60 feet of water on its first trip after returning from the shop.
Investigators later found a gap between some rubber seals and a steel tube that allowed water into the hull. There also was a hole in the rubber seal around the bilge pump, which caused water to be pumped back into the boat instead of out into the lake.
The safety board ruled that the company, White and Yellow Duck Sightseeing Tours, had failed to properly repair and maintain the vessel.
DUKW boats were used by the U.S. military in World War II to transport troops and supplies, and later were modified as sightseeing vehicles.
The boats have been involved in a number of safety accidents in recent years. In 2015, five college students were killed in Seattle when a duck boat collided with a bus.
State Desk on 07/21/2018
Print Headline: Sinking harkens to 1999's near Hot Springs