Recording of duck boat tragedy shows captain referred to storm before trip

WASHINGTON (WISH) – An initial review of a digital video recorder aboard the duck boat involved in the Branson, Missouri, tragedy shows the driver and captain were aware of the weather situation before leaving the dock.

The Ride the Ducks duck boat sank in a storm July 19 on Table Rock Lake near Branson, and a crewmember and 16 passengers died. The passengers who died included nine from Indianapolis; four were remembered Friday afternoon in a celebration of life at their church.

As the 29 passengers and two crewmembers were boarding, the captain made a verbal reference to looking at the weather radar prior to the trip, according to the review of the recording provided Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB said the audio quality of the recording varies widely throughout the recording, affecting the intelligibility of what is spoken.

The video also showed a crewmember briefing passengers on the location of emergency exits and life jackets, as well as how to put them on, before the boat went into the water.

The water appeared calm as the boat entered the water, but about five minutes later, whitecaps rapidly appeared on the water and winds increased.

About four minutes later, a bilge alarm sounded.

The captain turned off the alarm about a minute later. 

About two minutes later, the bilge alarm sounded again. 

The NTSB review said that water occasionally splashes inside the vehicle’s passenger compartment in the final minutes of the recording. 

Experts with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Missouri State Police Highway Patrol, Ride the Ducks and the National Weather Service will convene at the NTSB headquarters to validate the recorded data and develop a detailed transcript of the sequence of events. No date was announced for that effort.