The duck boat sinking that killed 17 on a Missouri lake is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation after the Coast Guard found probable cause for negligence. The US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri is seeking to delay civil lawsuits over the July 19 incident until the end of its "wide-ranging" investigation to prevent revealing evidence too early, though two boat captains already know themselves to be targets. Per the Springfield News-Leader, the Coast Guard found probable cause for "misconduct, negligence, or inattention to the duties of the captain" by Kenneth McKee of Ride the Ducks Branson's sunken Stretch Duck 07, and also probable cause that Barry King acted in a "grossly negligent manner" while operating Stretch Duck 54, which made it to safety.
The Branson area had been under a severe thunderstorm warning for 20 minutes before Stretch Duck 07 entered Table Rock Lake, where 73mph winds whipped up waves more than three feet high. Per the Wichita Eagle, the boat wasn't to be operated in winds exceeding 35mph or waves exceeding two feet. Civil cases also accuse Ride the Ducks Branson, owned by Ripley Entertainment, of putting passengers at risk through use of boat canopies, citing a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to remove them following a 1999 tragedy. The NTSB is also investigating this case, along with the state, per CNN. "We continue to fully cooperate," Ripley says in a statement, adding "we are providing all documentation and materials requested in the case." (Read more duck boat stories.)