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Three Charged with Manslaughter over Deadly 2018 Missouri 'Duck Boat' Incident

The Coast Guard oversees the removal of Stretch Duck 7 from Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, July 23, 2018. Missouri State Highway Patrol divers rigged the vessel, then a barge crane lifted it to the surface before it was towed to shore and loaded onto a flatbed trailer for transport to a secure facility. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff

Jonathan Allen

Missouri prosecutors filed state charges on Friday against three employees involved in a 2018 boat accident on a lake in the tourist town of Branson in which 17 people were killed.

Kenneth McKee, the boat's captain, and managers Curtis Lanham and Charles Baltzell each face 17 counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter for taking the World War Two-style duck boat out in stormy weather.

Stone County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Selby and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced the charges, which follow a ruling by a federal judge that federal prosecutors must drop charges they had brought because they lacked jurisdiction.

Thirty-one people were aboard the boat when hurricane-strength winds churned the waters of Branson's Table Rock Lake on July 19, 2018. Nine members of one family, including children, were among those killed when the boat capsized.

Lawyers for McKee and Baltzell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tricia Bath, a lawyer representing Lanham, wrote in an email that the accident was "a horrible tragedy that resulted from a storm that struck with a ferocity that was not typical and not anticipated."

"As has been the case since Curtis was initially charged in Federal Court, we are confident that he committed no crime," she wrote.

Lawyers representing McKee shared a statement with local media saying they expected he would plead not guilty.

McKee is facing additional charges of endangering the welfare of a child.

Survivors and relatives of those killed said McKee told passengers not to don life-jackets at the start of trip, which prosecutors said on Friday went against his training. Lanham and Baltzell failed to properly share news of the approaching storm and call off the trip, prosecutors said.

Ripley Entertainment, the company that operated the Ride the Duck boats, settled 31 lawsuits over the accident for undisclosed amounts, according to news reports.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Jul 18, 2021


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