The Stretch Duck 7 sinking: Initial investigation findings issued by NTSB

The Stretch Duck 7 is hauled out of the water in 2018 at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. St. Louis Post-Dispatch — J.B. Forbes
The Stretch Duck 7 is hauled out of the water in 2018 at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. St. Louis Post-Dispatch — J.B. Forbes

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recently issued its preliminary findings concerning the tragic events that led to the sinking of the DUKW amphibious passenger boat, “Stretch Duck 7”. NTSB has held a virtual meeting on 28 April to discuss the matter in detail.

On 19 July 2018, at about 1908 central daylight time, a 33-foot-long, modified World War II-era DUKW amphibious passenger vessel, “The Stretch Duck 7” sank during a storm with heavy winds that developed rapidly on Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri.

Of the 31 persons that were onboard, there were reported 17 fatalities. As the NTSB reported, the vessel’s operator, Ride the Ducks of Branson continued to operate waterborne tours despite a severe thunderstorm warning having been issued.

The Stretch Duck 7 entered the water with strong winds and waves reportedly 3 to 5 feet high, with the highest wind gust recorded at 73 mph. The vessel took on water and sank approximately 250 feet away from the exit ramp.

Initial findings
– The Stretch Duck 7’s propulsion, steering, and bilge systems operated normally and were not factors in this accident.
– Neith alcohol nor drugs misuse were factors.
– On the day of the accident, the National Weather Service accurately forecasted and issued timely notifications of a severe thunderstorm that would impact the accident location.
– Ride the Ducks did not effectively use all available weather information at their disposal to monitor the approaching severe weather and assess the risk it posed to its operations.
– Ride the Ducks should have suspended waterborne operations for The Stretch Duck 7 and the other last tours of the day in anticipation of imminent severe weather with immediate effect.
– The rapid sinking of the vessel resulted from uncontrolled progressive flooding due to a lack of subdivision.
– When the vessel sank, the closed starboard-side curtain aboard the vessel impeded egress and likely resulted in additional fatalities.
– Initial water ingress to the Stretch Duck 7 was likely from waves rolling over the air intake hatch’s spring-loaded damper and intermittently opening it, thereby allowing water into the engine compartment.

Important note
This is a synopsis from the NTSB’s report and does not include the Board’s rationale for the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations. Final revisions and adjustments are being made to the report from which these conclusions and safety recommendations have been extracted.

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