CLOSE

Hundreds of parishioners gathered at a vigil in Branson, Missouri, for the 17 people, 9 of whom were from a family suddenly killed when a duck boat capsized.
USA TODAY

Amphibious duck tours, such as those that killed 17 people last week in Branson, Missouri, should be banned, said the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday [19659007] Former NTSB chairman Jim Hall, who served under President Bill Clinton, said Thursday dropped to the lake the Ozarks seemed eerily similar to a 1999 duck boat incident that killed 13 people in Arkansas. Hall said duck boat tours are essentially unregulated amusement park rides, a criticism others have voiced because the amphibious vehicles are neither boat nor bus.

"My feeling after seeing is the only one thing in the name of public safety is to ban it," Hall told USA TODAY. "I think it's the responsible job of ensuring that (driver) does not

In Arkansas, the NTSB recommended that duck boat operators install additional flotation devices to ensure that low-power vehicles stay afloat even when their engines and bilge pumps stop working.

Duck Boats, based on the World War II military landing craft known as DUKWs, are popular with tourists because they allow sightseeing on land and on water. But the vehicles were never designed for extended use, and some duck boat operators have significantly modified them to handle additional passengers and extend their operating seasons.

The US Coast Guard said the sunken boat was built in 1944 and an inspection in February reported the Kansas City Star. The company that operates the Branson Duck Boats has discontinued service.

Divers have found a video recorder from the sunken duck boat, which could provide clues to the disaster. The recorder will be analyzed in an NTSB laboratory in Washington, DC, but it is still unclear whether the recorder worked at the time of the deadly capsize, or whether any of its data can be retrieved.

Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, It is also unclear whether the video recorder of the Branson duck boat has audio capabilities. The unit was recovered by divers, one of whose team had searched a bay on Table Rock Lake to locate the deceased's boat and bodies. More: Sunken Branson Duckboat had a video recorder. Officials have it, but not sure if it works

Researchers have also interviewed some survivors, Holloway said, as well as people on another duck boat who was on the lake at the same time but has managed to flood [19659008] Federal officials have warned tourists for almost 20 years of the dangers of amphibious excursion boats, which have sporadic and sometimes contradictory safety regulations because they are neither boat nor bus. Operators have extended some of the boats from their original designs and have sometimes added canopies and clear vinyl "walls" that allow them to operate in bad weather.

In his analysis of the 1999 sinking boat, the NTSB said the Coast Guard was unable to adequately monitor the private operation, and the owner failed to keep a seal properly and to allow water on board the vehicle, the Miss Majestic, to intrude.

"Contributing to the downfall was a mistake in the design of the DUKWs so re-engineered for passenger service, that is, the lack of sufficient reserve buoyancy that would allow the vehicle to remain afloat in a flooded condition," said the NTSB. "To the high loss of life contributed a continuous canopy, which included passengers in the sinking vehicle."

More: Would the use of lifejackets make the deadly Branson Dinghy Accident even worse?

A video of the Branson Duckman witness just before it capsized suggests that its flexible plastic windows may have been closed and passengers could have been holding on when the hybrid boat truck went down. It shows no passengers who jump clearly.

"There are a few things sticking out in your head, and the thought of a canopy coming over a kid who can not swim without some sort of life jacket … is scary," Hall said.

Ripley Entertainment, the company that operates the Branson Duck Boats, has not responded to messages seeking a comment from the USA TODAY network.

spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala has noted that the accident on Thursday was the only one in more than 40 years of operation

The website of the Duck Boat Company now bears a sad statement and the image of a black band: "The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority, Ride the Ducks will remain closed for business while we support the investigation and have time to mourn for the families and the community.Thank you for your support and we kindly ask you to share your thoughts and prayers during this time

Because the boats go ashore and in the water, they are regulated by the State Road Safety Authority and the Coast Guard

More: "Death Traps": Federal officials are warning since Two decades before the dangers of duck boats

The Coast Guard requires lifejackets on boats, but leaves them The NTSB has advised passengers not to wear life jackets on canopied boats, as lifejackets can drive passengers into the canopy as vehicles are lowered, thus preventing them from escaping [19659008] The NTSB, which has issued non-binding safety recommendations, has removed the distance pushed by canopies from the vehicles to reduce the drowning risk.

The agency has also recommended that the highway management regulate the overland vehicles with seat belt requirements from passengers, saying that passengers should not wear seat belts while the vehicle is in the water.

Several agencies are now investigating the Branson Duck Boat Disaster [19659008] More: Before the Branson, Missouri, accident, the Duck Boats had casualties

Contributed by: Will Schmitt, USA TODAY Network

Read or Share This story: https: // usat .ly / 2LWggIX