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Coast Guard investigates duck boat accident

BRANSON, Mo. (AP/WISH) – An investigation of a tourist boat accident on a Missouri lake that claimed 17 lives will look at whether operators of the boat violated Coast Guard-issued limitations by venturing into the water as thunderstorms threatened and struck the region.

The Ride the Ducks in Branson tour on Thursday occurred as the area was under a severe thunderstorm warning. A storm that moved through the area generated near-hurricane strength winds.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Tasha Sadowicz says the boat that sank passed an annual inspection in February. But Sadowicz says the “certificate of inspection” places limitations on when boats can enter the water, based on wind speed and the height of waves.

Sadowicz says investigators want to know whether the boat violated the limitations, and whether operators were adequately monitoring the weather.

Ride the Ducks, the operator of the duck boat in which 17 died, issued a statement on its website: 

We remain deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred at Ride the Ducks Branson. Our focus from the start has been on the guests, families, and employees who were affected last Thursday.

Today, we continue to focus our efforts on the families. We are offering to pay for all related medical bills and funeral expenses, return all personal items from the rescue scene, and assist with any related travel or accommodations that will help the families in their time of need. An event like this deeply touches everyone and we are also providing grief counseling to our employees who have been affected by this tragic accident.

We are fully cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Highway Patrol and all federal and state authorities involved in the investigation. The investigation is being managed by the NTSB. Because we are a party to the NTSB investigation, we are not allowed to comment on any aspect of it. However, our job is to cooperate and provide information to those officials and to comfort the families of those affected by this tragic event.

Thank you for your support, and we continue to ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the families during this difficult time.