Duck boat tragedy shows safety flaws in outdated boat design, expert says

LARGO, Fla. — The video showing a duck boat in distress, moments before sinking in a Missouri lake is painful to watch.  And for a Largo man that builds and refurbishes amphibious vehicles, it was heartbreaking.

17 killed in Missouri duck boat sinking ranged in age from 1 to 70

Owner of Duck Boat involved in deadly incident: 'It shouldn't have been in the water'

“Duck boats were old military trucks that a boat hull was built around,” Kevin Buck, the owner of Trolley Boats Amphibious Adventure Tours, said. “So you are making a motor vehicle float. We take a boat, that already is a boat, and make it drive down the road.”

Video of the boat in distress showed waves pouring over the bow. Buck said the waves were too much for the engine to handle.  

“Our engine is mid-ship. You are comparing a boat that was designed in 1942 to one that was designed in 2017. So, look at how technology has changed. These are definitely safer,” Buck said. “We have escape hatches in the roof. The side windows push out, and we have a four camera system for when they are on the road."

The duck boat in Missouri had a canopy stretching the entire length of the ship. The video shows no clear escape hatches in the roof.  

Nine people in one family were among the 17 killed when that tour duck boat capsized Thursday night, the governor's office said. Two other members of that family survived.

29 passengers and two crew members were on board the amphibious craft when it plunged into 80 feet of water in Table Rock Lake near Branson as severe thunderstorms struck the area, officials said. The boat landed upright on its wheels, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader said.

Children were among the 17 killed, officials said. Seven others were injured, one seriously, the governor's office said. The ages of the victims range from 1 to 70 years old, according to the sheriff's office.

Buck wants to know what caused the boat to sink and for the industry to take a closer look at amphibious vehicles so people can continue to enjoy them safely.

I don’t want people to feel afraid of going on amphibious tours because they are a lot of fun,” Buck said. “Always want to know the cause.”

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