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Coast Guard refers Missouri 'duck boat' for possible criminal probe

By Daniel Uria
Coast Guard refers Missouri 'duck boat' for possible criminal probe
The U.S. Coast Guard referred the sinking of a Missouri duck boat to federal investigators for a possible criminal case Tuesday. Pool Photo by Nathan Papes/News-Leader | License Photo

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard referred the deadly sinking of a Missouri an amphibious tour boat to federal investigators for a possible criminal case Tuesday.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Alana Miller confirmed the case, in which the so-called "duck boat" capsized on Table Rock Lake near Branson killing 17 people, was referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri, The Kansas City Star reported.

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"During the course of the initial part of our investigation, the fact-finding part, we identified stuff that could point to some sort of criminal activity and we are not in the business of criminal investigations," Miller said.

After the boat was raised out of the water last month, Coast Guard Lt. Tasha Sadowicz said the military branch's investigation would focus on the limits on when the boat could enter the water based on wind speed and the height of waves.

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The Coast Guard previously determined the cause of the failure was "the rapidly worsening river conditions," but also cited a "failure to anticipate the change in the weather conditions."

Miller didn't clarify what criminal activity is suspected but said the Marine Board of Investigation used its "collective judgement" and consulted with its legal department before the incident was referred.

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She also told the Springfield News-Leader the Coast Guard would continue its safety investigation.

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"It is Coast Guard policy to ensure that its Marine Board of Investigation does not compromise any criminal investigation," Miller said.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Don Ledford also confirmed the office was asked to look into the case.

"I can confirm that the Coast Guard referred this matter to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Missouri to consider a potential criminal investigation and federal prosecution," Ledford said. "We cannot provide any additional information or comment beyond that confirmation."

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's office also is holding a separate criminal investigation into possible violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

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