Emergency workers patrol an area Friday, July 20, 2018, near where a duck boat capsized the night before resulting in at least 13 deaths on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. Workers were still searching for four people on the boat that were unaccounted for. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


The news alert caught my eye last night.

Anytime you see “Mass Casualty Incident,” you’re going to look a little closer. I was out with my family at a musical production of “Annie,” but it was intermission and I checked my phone and saw the alert. My heart skipped an extra beat when I saw that it was in Branson.

Table Rock Lake is a long, sprawling, serpent of a lake (man-made, following the damming of the White River by the Army Corps of Engineers in the ’50’s) spanning the Missouri-Arkansas border in southwestern, Missouri. A friend’s family used to have a boat docked there (in Kimberling City.)  It was where I spent many summer vacations in my teens and twenties, made many lasting memories, and had several misadventures — including getting caught out on the lake in the middle of a thunderstorm. My friends and I were fortunate to escape that incident with some minor bumps and bruises and a relatively minor ding to the front of the boat from being forced into the dock by the waves. That was 33 years ago, but the memory is fresh this morning.

When I started writing this article, the death toll stood at 13, with 4 people still missing. The toll’s since been updated to 17. There were 29 passengers and two crew members on board a Ride the Ducks boat which capsized in the midst of a thunderstorm which moved through Stone County in the early evening hours.  A second “duck boat” managed to make it back to the dock.

A passenger from the nearby Showboat Branson Belle captured video of the two boats struggling in the whipped up waves and wind. Additional video from another boat was tweeted to KMBC:

Seven of the boat’s passengers were taken to the hospital following the event:

A spokeswoman for the Cox Medical Center Branson said four adults and three children arrived at the hospital shortly after the incident. Two adults are in critical condition and the others were treated for minor injuries, Brandei Clifton said. A total of 14 people survived.

Reports this morning are that the National Weather Service had warned about the threat of severe weather earlier in the day:

The National Weather Service warned about the threat of severe weather hours before a duck boat capsized during a storm on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, Thursday, killing 13 people. Those alerts highlighted the risk of strong winds. Here is what KMBC has learned about the timeline of the alerts.

11:20 a.m.

6:32 p.m.

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Stone County. The warning lists Table Rock Lake in the direct path of the approaching storm. At the time, the storm has not yet entered Stone County.

Wind gusts were measured at up to 63 mph. In the coming hours and days, there are sure to be questions raised regarding how this happened.

During a press conference Friday morning, [Stone County Sheriff Doug] Rader said it was too early to know the cause of the incident. He said there were life jackets in the boat but it’s not clear how safety equipment was used.

Rader said the investigation is ongoing and added, “It’s been a very trying night.”

He said the captain of the boat, who has 16 years of experience, survived, but the driver did not. Rader declined to give an age range of the passengers or elaborate on whether they were local or tourists.

State and local officials have tweeted their condolences regarding the incident, as has the President.

The victims of this tragedy have not yet been identified but this hits awfully close to home. Our thoughts and prayers remain with them and their loved ones.



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