Duck Boat's Captain Charged

The indictment alleges Kenneth Scott McKee failed to properly assess the nature of the severe weather while the vessel was on the water and operated it in violation of the conditions and limitations specified in the vessel's certificate of inspection. When severe weather arrived at the vessel's location, the indictment says, McKee failed to instruct passengers to don personal flotation devices and also allegedly failed to immediately increase speed and head to the nearest shore.

The captain of the duck boat that sank at Table Rock Lake on July 19 was indicted Nov. 8 on charges of misconduct, negligence, or inattention to duty by a ship's officer resulting in the death of another person. Kenneth Scott McKee, 51, is charged with one count for each of the 17 passengers (including one crew member) who died when Stretch Duck 7 sank. Tim Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced the indictment.

"Our entire community was shocked and saddened by the loss of 17 lives in this tragic event last summer," Garrison said. "Today's indictment alleges that the misconduct, negligence, and inattention to duty by the ship's captain caused or contributed to the loss of those lives. This remains an active and ongoing investigation. To better enable our office in its urgent pursuit of justice through this investigation, we have requested various courts presiding over the related civil lawsuits to allow our intervention and stay certain manners of discovery to prohibit those lawsuits from impeding or jeopardizing our work. Today's indictment illustrates the urgency our investigative team has shown in its pursuit so as not to unnecessarily burden other legal avenues utilized by victims."

The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. McKee was the captain of Stretch Duck 7, operated by Ripley Entertainment, Inc. The company operated duck boat tours in Branson, Mo., and on Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo.

McKee allegedly failed to properly assess incoming weather prior to entering the vessel on the water. At the time he drove the vehicle into the water, according to the indictment, there was lightning in the area and severe weather approaching. The indictment also alleges McKee failed to properly assess the nature of the severe weather while the vessel was on the water and that he operated it in violation of the conditions and limitations specified in the vessel's certificate of inspection. When severe weather arrived at the vessel's location, the indictment says, McKee failed to instruct passengers to don personal flotation devices and also allegedly failed to immediately increase speed and head to the nearest shore. He allegedly caused or allowed the vessel's plastic side curtains to be lowered, which created a barrier over the vessel's exits in the event of a need to abandon ship.

Under federal statutes, a conviction for this offense is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole on each count of conviction, plus a fine of $250,000.

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