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US Coast Guard Refers ‘Duck Boat’ Investigation to US Attorney’s Office

Law enforcement officers work from a Missouri State Highway Patrol boat near the Showboat Branson Belle after a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake, killing 17.
Credit File Photo - MSHP Twitter / Missouri State Highway Patrol
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Missouri State Highway Patrol
Law enforcement officers work from a Missouri State Highway Patrol boat near the Showboat Branson Belle after a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake, killing 17.

The US Department of Justice is considering a potential criminal investigation and federal prosecution related to the sinking of a “duck boat” on Table Rock Lake—a tragedy that killed 17 people. 

A spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in the Western District of Missouri, Don Ledford, confirmed to KSMU that the US Coast Guard has referred the case to that office, which is based in Kansas City.

The amphibious vessel battled high waves and strong winds on July 19 before taking on too much water and sinking during a severe thunderstorm.

The boat was owned by Ride the Ducks Branson. The incident report released by the Missouri Highway Patrol indicated that no one aboard the boat was wearing a life jacket when it sank.

Lisa Novak, a spokeswoman with the US Coast Guard in Washington, D.C., said the case was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office on August 13.  Novak said the Coast Guard will continue its safety investigation.

She said the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation conferred with judge advocates and other investigative team members—and that it was their “collective judgment” to refer the case to the US Attorney for its consideration of the facts.

The US Coast Guard does not conduct criminal investigations.

The US Attorney’s office is part of the US Department of Justice.  Ledford confirmed that the matter had been referred to the Kansas City office “to consider a potential criminal investigation and federal prosecution.” He would not comment on whether a criminal investigation is underway.

Copyright 2020 KSMU. To see more, visit .

As the Journalist-in-Residence at Missouri State University, Jennifer teaches undergraduate and graduate students, oversees a semester-long, team reporting project, and contributes weekly stories to KSMU Radio in the area of public affairs journalism.
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