Two captains of Ride the Ducks tour boats, one of which sank and killed 17 people in July, have been targeted in a criminal investigation, according to federal court documents field Wednesday. Pool Photo by Nathan Papes/News-Leader/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The captains of two Ride the Ducks amphibious tour boats involved in a fatal sinking incident in Missouri were identified as targets of a criminal investigation Wednesday.
Kenneth Scott McKee, captain of the Stretch Duck 07, which sunk on Table Rock Lake and killed 17 people in July, and Barry King, captain of Stretch Duck 54, which made it to shore, are both "aware of their status as targets of the government action," federal court documents obtained by The Kansas City Star said.
Several other employees or officers of Ripley Entertainment, the company that owns the duck boats, were also identified as targets or subjects of government action, according to the documents.
Both captains are under investigation for allegedly operating the vessels in a manner that endangered lives as they took the amphibious boats on the water where they battled heavy winds and strong waves, citing a law regarding negligence or misconduct when operating a vessel.
"Every captain, engineer, pilot, or other person employed on any steamboat or vessel, by whose misconduct, negligence, or inattention to his duties on such vessel the life of any person is destroyed ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both," the law states.
A report from the National Transportation Safety Board, which is conducting its own investigation, said the captain of the sunken boat checked the weather reports and discussed safety procedures prior to the trip, ABC News reported.
"In the vicinity of the boat ramp, the captain began a safety briefing regarding the water portion of the tour," the report stated. "The briefing included the location of emergency exits as well as the location of the life jackets. The captain then demonstrated the use of a life jacket and pointed out the location of the life rings."
White caps appeared shortly after the boat entered the water and the first 911 call about Stretch Duck 07 came at 7:09 p.m., 14 minutes after its trip began.
According to the NTSB report, both the captain and the driver of Stretch Duck 07 were on the boat at 6:28 p.m. when an unidentified person stepped onto the back of the boat and told the crew to embark on the water portion of the tour first.
The boat's certificate of inspection, released by the U.S. Coast Guard, indicated it wasn't supposed to operate in water if winds in the area reached 35 mph or if waves were higher than 2 feet.
The National Weather Service outpost in Springfield, Mo., had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for July 19, the night of the incident, with estimated winds of up to 60 mph.
Officials said winds on Table Rock Lake reached 73 mph and waves grew higher than 3 feet that night, although it was unclear what the wind speeds and wave measurements were when the boat entered the water.