17 dead after duck boat sinks at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri

Another incident with a DUKW-type tour boat (AKA a DUCK Boat) involving multiple loss of life.


Some basic info about the DUKW:

Fatal incidents

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_tour#Fatal_incidents :

In 1999 a DUKW sank in Hot Springs, Arkansas, killing 13 of the 20 people on board.

On June 23, 2002, the Lady Duck, a custom-built vehicle converted from a Ford F-350 pickup truck, sank while on a cruise on the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada. Six passengers, the driver, and the tour guide escaped, but four passengers were trapped under the sunken vehicle’s canopy and drowned. A review found problems with regulating such vehicles and defects in the makeshift design and the emergency procedures.

On July 7, 2010, a regulated and modern Ride the Ducks amphibious bus (based on the original design), was disabled by an engine fire and later run over by a barge on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The operator of the tug pushing the barge was on his personal cell phone. Before the accident the Ride The Ducks captain made numerous calls to the tug to get the tug to change course. Those calls were heard and rebroadcast by other vessels, but there was no response from the operator of the tug. Thirty-three passengers and two crew members were quickly recovered, but two passengers, a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl, both part of a tour group from Hungary, were killed. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the Tugboat mate’s (responsible for driving the tug at the time) inattention to his duties. The tugboat mate was sentenced to 366 days in federal prison.

On May 8, 2015, a Ride the Ducks boat struck and killed a woman crossing the street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Chinatown section. Witnesses at the scene say that the woman was distracted by her handheld tablet device and walked into the street against the red light and was struck while in the boat’s front center blind spot. The incident is still being investigated.

On September 24, 2015, a Ride the Ducks vehicle in Seattle, Washington crashed into a charter bus on the Aurora Bridge, killing five passengers on the bus, critically injuring eight, and seriously injuring eight more.

On April 29, 2016, in Boston, Massachusetts, a 29-year-old woman was killed after the motor scooter she was operating collided with a Duck Boat, as both vehicles turned onto Beacon Street adjacent to the Boston Common.

On July 19, 2018, in Branson, Missouri, 8 people died and as many as 13 were injured after a duck boat capsized during a severe thunderstorm. 31 passengers were on the boat.

I’m going to hell.

You won’t be alone.

Just a slight correction on the 2010 incident in Philadelphia. There was no fire. From the NTSB report:

“The DUKW 34 surge tank pressure cap was not in place at the time of the accident, and the missing pressure cap allowed the engine coolant to boil and create steam that entered the passenger compartment and prompted the master to shut down the engine because he believed he had an onboard fire.”

11 people now confirmed dead, 7 in the hospital and 5 missing.

From Mike Smith Enterprises Blog A blog about weather, climate, and science.

This image shows the “Gust front” ahead of a line of thunderstorms.

At that site there is also video of the two duck boats in the wind and waves.

these vessels/vehicles are nothing but bathtubs without any bouyancy chambers or other watertight compartments to keep them afloat when fully loaded with people…they have no freeboard

during WWII most DUKWs lost were from flooding

time to end this farce and revoke the COIs on all these things


Add to these the incidents on the Thames in London and in a dock in Liverpool!

1 Like

Granted it’s a lake, but any decent phone app would have shown that large front coming well in advance. It’s the same system that generated tornadoes the preceding day.

What are the written criteria for not launching?

Based on the events, when there are no more customers with money in hand wanting to go.
Divers recovered more bodies. Toll now stands at 17.

Yes, that seemed to be the obvious criteria, or to put it more bluntly, how do we cancel with all these tickets sold.

Been there and seen it in practice - would only hope for the better angels to keep it away.

The company website message below.

If they would have been smart yesterday, they would be making money today, tomorrow etc… Does the man at the helm make the final decision to get underway?


I second that. Then I won’t have to listen to duck whistles 100 times a day in the summer going by my house and listening to the Gilligan’s Island theme song. What a world that would be.

Hope NTSB talks to MAIB…

(although one of my earliest memories is driving into Loch Lomond in a DUKW belonging to an uncle!)

Agreed, whenever I see this one on the SF Bay I shudder. Looks like a toy, built like a toy from what I can tell.
The sad thing is I just can’t believe all the deaths, they were so close to shore. Where were the harbor patrol and coasties? Now this claim the capt said you don’t need life jackets (only one woman, so far, claims this). So sad. I’ve been at the dock with my boat when a microburst came through at our marina, in a sheltered body of water though. It created a 8-10’ waterspout feet from my boat, tore into two 26’ powerboats that swung so fiercly I thought it was going to bust the cleats and take off…moments later back to just 20kts. Mother Nature is no joke sometimes.

The president of the company said a couple things, he said the storm “came out of nowhere” and when asked what the criteria was for canceling the trips he said that “obviously” they would not go in severe weather.

Presumably if it had been blowing 50-70 kts with 5 ft seas at launch time they would not have gone. This operation must be essentially tourist-oriented, likely the decision was made based on the fact that it was a nice calm, sunny day.

The weather must have been very nice when the boats left so they would have departed if they were using on a simple go / no-go decision based on current conditions.

The reporting was that this event took many people by surprise, this rare event “broke” the company’s simple system used to evalute weather conditons.

There are a few of these that have been operating on the Marina Bay reservoir in Singapore for some years. (So far without any accidents to my knowledge)
Here is one seen on dry land:

And on the water:

In Rotterdam they have newer version, the Splash Bus:

1 Like

Unlike the Duck the bus is totally enclosed and seems to be pretty watertight, including the windows, and has a much larger “freeboard” then the open Duck. Would Splash mean that this is the same company as Branson/Ripley?

On the Dutch website they claim that the bus is seaworthy so the next destination could be New York…



On page 40 the CG recommends that COI include route restrictions. In the sample restriction the limits are no more than 1000 feet from shore, no more than 25 kts of wind and sea state not to exceed 1 foot.

I wonder what restrictions if any were in place for this operation?

IMHO the duck boat would be much safer without the canopy-roof. At least the passengers could escape easier when it sinks.

1 Like