BRANSON, Missouri (AP) — The duck boat that capsized and sank last week on a sightseeing cruise was raised from a Missouri lake Monday, more than three days after the accident that killed 17 people near the tourist town of Branson.
Footage from Springfield, Missouri, television station KYTV showed a crane attached to a barge pulling the duck boat from Table Rock Lake and another boat pushing the vessel toward shore.
The boat , which was submerged in 80 feet (24 meters) of water, went down Thursday evening after a sudden thunderstorm generated near-hurricane strength winds.
Divers attached a sling to the boat, then raised the vessel. Once it was brought to the surface, it was drained, Coast Guard Capt. Scott Stoermer told reporters.
The vessel will be loaded onto a vehicle and transported to a facility where the National Transportation Safety Board will take custody of it, Stoermer said.
Nine of the people who died belonged to one Indiana family . Others killed came from Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois. Seven survivors were taken to a Branson hospital, where the last patient was discharged Sunday.
Mandi Keller, who was not aboard the vessel, told The Kansas City Star that the survival of her 15-year-old daughter, Gillian Collins, and eight other relatives was a “complete miracle.” They were the only family aboard in which no one died.
Missouri State Highway Patrol chaplain Steve Martin said the family’s survival was “remarkable” and that there is no explanation for it. He said the relatives, who found safety in different ways, were suffering from survivors’ guilt.
Divers have recovered a video-recording device that was aboard the boat, although it’s unclear whether it was working when the boat capsized or whether any data can be retrieved, including audio. The recorder was headed to the NTSB lab in Washington, D.C.
None of those aboard were wearing flotation devices. Missouri law requires boat passengers ages 7 and younger to wear life jackets on the water, but commercial vessels are exempt. They are required only to have enough flotation devices for all passengers and crew, and life jackets that fit every child on board, said Lt. Tasha Sadowicz of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Former NTSB Chairman James Hall said over the weekend that the World War II-era duck boats should be banned for commercial recreational use because they aren’t safe in bad weather.
Steve Paul, owner of the Test Drive Technologies inspection service in the St. Louis area, said he issued a written report in August 2017 for Ripley Entertainment, which owns Ride the Ducks in Branson, after inspecting two dozen boats. In the report, he explained why the vessels’ engines — and pumps that remove water from their hulls — might fail in inclement weather.
Paul said he would not know if the boat that sank is one that he inspected until it has been recovered from the lake.
Ripley Entertainment, which owns the duck boat business in Branson, has not responded to questions about Paul’s concerns.
The company’s website said it was offering to pay for all medical and funeral expenses for victims, to return all personal items from the accident scene and to help with families’ travel or accommodations. The company also said it was offering grief counseling for its own employees.
Ripley has made few comments since Friday, except to say that the accident was the company’s first in more than 40 years in Branson.