What precautions the Channel Cat operators take to maintain safety on the river

MOLINE, Illinois -- As hearts break for the victims of the deadly Branson, Missouri duck boat incident, safety comes to mind for those who live the river life.

The Channel Cat Water Taxi has been in the Quad Cities since 1994.  The passenger ferry boats are different from the duck boats; they ride only on land and have a flat-bottom style build.

"The channel cats were built specifically for the Mississippi River," said the Manager of Administration, Jennifer Hirsch. "They’re open-air, barge-like vessels that can carry equipment and people."

The Channel Cat boats weigh 24 tons, can carry up to 70 passengers or 12,950 pounds.  They were made with dual 250-horsepower engines, known for their power and maneuverability on the river.  Each year the boats are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Contracted pilots operate the boats.  They are licensed captains who Hirsch says have "extensive training on the river."

Hirsch said weather conditions are constantly being monitored.

"We have confidence that (pilots) are able to make the right decision and dock the boat when it needs to be docked," said Hirsch.  She said they watch for conditions like high winds or lightening.

"Our crew has safety first and they keep that in the forefront of their mind," she said.

Each boat is equipped with emergency flares, life rings and life jackets; 40 child life jackets and 60 adult life jackets.