A local prosecutor on Friday filed a total of 63 criminal charges against three employees over a tourist boat accident in July 2018 on a Missouri lake that killed 17 people.
The charges were filed in Stone County against the captain, general manager and on-duty manager the day of the accident at the Ride the Ducks attraction on Table Rock Lake near the tourist mecca of Branson.
The charges against Captain Kenneth Scott McKee of Verona, general manager Curtis Lanham, of Galena, and duty officer Charles Baltzell of Kirbyville came seven months after a federal judge dismissed charges filed by federal prosecutors and concluded they had no jurisdiction.
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McKee faces 29 charges, including 17 charges of first-degree involuntary murder. A statement from a Missouri Highway Patrol sergeant accuses him of failing to perform his duties as a licensed captain by taking his amphibious vehicle down to the lake during a thunderstorm.
“We are reviewing the charges, expecting no guilty pleadings to be made and will continue to represent Mr. McKee vigorously,” JR Hobbs and Marilyn B. Keller, representing the captain, said in a statement.
Baltzell and Lanham face 17 charges each for first-degree involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of not communicating the weather conditions and failing to stop the operation during a severe thunderstorm warning.
Lawyers for Baltzell and Lanham did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The charges were filed by county prosecutor Matt Selby and Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt. 31 people were on board when the duck boat entered the lake. A storm suddenly came up and the waves flooded the boat before it could get back to shore.
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Fourteen people survived. The dead included nine members of a family from Indianapolis. Other victims were from Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas.
Trips on the lake in modified World War II vehicles were once a popular feature in the Branson area of southwestern Missouri. Ripley Entertainment, which owned the former World War II vehicle, settled 31 lawsuits in connection with the shipwreck.