WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Over the past two years, the National Transportation Safety Board has pieced together how 17 people died in July 2018 after their duck boat capsized on a Missouri lake during a storm, while three other similar boats made it safely to shore.
The NTSB released its final investigation report Tuesday.
“The entire reason that we are here today is to prevent future tragedies,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
The agency found the tourist company, Ride the Ducks, should have suspended the four duck boat tours due to the severe thunderstorm warning and did not properly communicate with the captain of the sunken boat about how fast the inclement weather was approaching.
“The operations manual instructed the captains to raise the side curtains during severe weather,” said Michael Karr, the Survivor Factors Group chairman for NTSB.
The report found lowered curtains on one side of the boat and the overhead canopy trapped passengers inside, and under those circumstances, their life jackets prohibited them from swimming downward to escape. The older model of the vessel also caused it to sink faster.
An ongoing criminal investigation into the boat’s captain prevented the NTSB from getting all of the answers they wanted.
“One of the pieces of evidence we were not able to understand was the captain’s decision or actions regarding the speed of the vessel,” said Brian Young, the NTSB investigator-in-charge.
Members of Congress are pushing legislation that could address some of the lessons learned from the tragedy, but the bill is stalled.
The NTSB also recommended stricter safety measures and weather restrictions to the U.S. Coast Guard following a similar duck boat accident on an Arkansas lake in 1999 that killed 13 people.
“They were never acceptably acted upon,” Sumwalt said.
The agency concluded those earlier recommendations would likely have prevented the 2018 Missouri duck boat deaths.
The owner of the boat, Ripley Entertainment, has settled more than two dozen lawsuits filed by survivors or relatives of those killed.