Two employees indicted in Missouri duckboat sinking

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Duck Boat Accident

A federal grand jury has indicted two workers in the company that owns the duck boat that sank on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake last summer. The sinking of the 51-year-old duckboat resulted in 17 deaths.

Curtis Lanham, general manager at Ride the Ducks Branson, and Charles Baltzell, operations supervisor, were charged with misconduct and neglect in a 47-count indictment that was unsealed, according to the Associated Press.

The boat’s captain, Kenneth Scott McKee, was earlier indicted on charges that he failed to assess the weather and did not tell passengers to wear flotation devices as conditions on the lake deterioriated.

The indictment said Baltzell ordered McKee to do the water portion of the trip before the land portion because he knew that a storm was approaching. Baltzell or Lanham did not communicate with McKee about the intensity of the storm, even though gusts of 70 mph were predicted. Rules on the lake prevented the boat from operating in winds over 35 mph.

The indictment said that Baltzell talked with Lanham about the fact that McKee’s Duck 7 tour was conducting the water portion of the tour first. Lanham replied: “Good it’s dark right now.

The indictment also said that Lanham helped create “a work atmosphere on Stretch Duck 7 and other duck boats where the concern for profit overshadowed the concern for safety.”

Ripley Entertainment spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala-Potts said the Orlando, Florida-based company is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s office and other agencies investigating the incident. The company suspended operation of the boats after the sinking.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to help and support the community of Branson and those impacted by this accident,” Smagala-Potts told the AP in a statement. “While the United States Attorney has decided to bring criminal charges as a result of the accident, all persons charged are entitled to a strong presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We have and will continue to offer support for all of our employees as this process moves forward.”

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